Cleveland is required by law each year to pass a balanced General Fund budget, meaning the city can’t spend more money than it takes in. 

Here’s how Cleveland’s budget process works

⮕The mayor sends City Council a document that summarizes the administration’s budget recommendations. It’s called the Mayor’s Estimate. It has detailed information for each city department and city fund and includes estimates on how much money the city expects to collect through taxes and fees. This happens by Feb. 1 each year.

⮕ City Council holds budget hearings, usually starting in early to mid-February. Council committee members discuss, debate and ask questions about spending priorities. 

⮕Council members can agree to change portions of the budget recommended by the mayor. 

⮕ Council publicly shares its version of the budget, which is written into an ordinance or law that council votes on after hearings are completed. This is sometimes called the “second reading” of the budget. 

⮕Council must wait at least seven days after sharing the amended budget and publishing it in the City Record to do a “third reading” and vote to approve or not approve the budget.

⮕ The city must approve a budget by April 1 of each year. After the budget is approved, it is posted online. 

⮕ At the end of the year, council decides whether to redistribute or save any money that was not spent.

Want to listen in on budget hearings? Check Cleveland’s TV20 live stream or City Council’s YouTube channel.

What is the purpose of the budget? 

The budget tells residents what money the city is collecting and how it is being spent. The budget also clarifies what city leaders’ priorities are. A document called the Budget Book breaks the spending and priorities down by department (the highest level of organization) and by division (different sections of the departments). City departments have directors and divisions have commissioners. 

In the budget book, you can see priorities laid out for each department.

Find the 2023 Mayor’s Estimate for the budget here

How is the budget organized?

The two main parts are the Operating Budget and the Capital Budget. The Operating Budget is the money spent on things such as employees and supplies. The Capital Budget includes larger investments in buildings or street lights.

The money that is spent comes from several buckets. The major funds include: General Fund, Special Revenue Funds, Enterprise Funds and the Agency Fund.

Money that the city receives from most federal and state grants is not included in the city budget funds because those grants are managed following different rules and often on a different schedule, or fiscal year.

Where does the money come from? 

Cleveland collects money in the form of taxes: income taxes from paychecks of people who work and/or live in the city, and taxes and fees from businesses such as “bed” taxes from hotel rooms. 

What is City Council’s role? 

Council reviews and can make changes to the budget before voting to approve the final general fund budget.

Cleveland Documenters pays and trains people to cover public meetings where government officials discuss important issues and decide how to spend taxpayer money.