City of Covington budget discussions continue, city’s priorities discussed; affordable housing

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

It’s been a difficult time to budget, said Mayor Joseph U. Meyer. But the city was ready for unexpected challenges. And because of that, officials have been able to create a new budget that not only keeps Covington’s economic momentum moving forward, but also continues to be responsible in its spending.

Commissioners met at their regularly scheduled caucus meeting this week at City Hall to continue discussions from their Saturday budget planning meeting. By the time the caucus meeting was finished, the Commission had finished much of its budget planning, and developed a preliminary list of priorities for the next fiscal year.

Covington Mayor Joe Meyer (File photo)

“As my colleagues have said, this has been one of those very difficult budget circumstances made real in a special way with the work-from-home environment that costs us so much money on an annual basis,” Meyer said. “But the city government in the last several years has been very prudent in its financial management and it has prepared for difficult times … it has built reserves like it never has in the past, (and) we have also added expertise to the finance department so that the budget that’s been presented and developed by the staff this time around has been gone through like no budget — they’ve really gone into the weeds and the detail and scrutinized it thoroughly to make sure that every penny is being spent appropriately.”

The Mayor also noted how a larger than expected growth in payroll tax receipts and a variety of grant funds have given the city flexibility and the opportunity to use resources in the “most productive way.” The city has added jobs to the payroll and given all employees payraises. They are also continuing to invest in a new City Hall.

Specifically, Commissioners continued their Saturday discussion, keeping several items in their budget, including:

• pay raises for all city employees
• raising the waste fee to $188.36
• setting aside a pay adjustment sum of $50,000 for a number of positions that the city manager and HR department recommended be individually reviewed for appropriate adjustment
• adding $300,000 back into sick leave overtime for the fire department
• increasing one finance position from part-time to full-time at a cost of $40,000 a year
• hiring a new controller at a cost of $140,000 a year and
• continuing the neighborhood grant program at a $30,000 annual level

Other items included:

• $50,000 funding for the Recreation Commission
• $32,000 for non-mandatory city training

Mayor Meyer then explained that there are approximately $943,000 in additional budget expenditures, which will be offset by $513,000 in reductions and additional revenue, which would leave about $450,000 — and that will be taken from ARPA funding from fiscal year 2026.

“That will balance the budget,” Meyer said. “That will leave us with a little bit of a deeper hole to deal with next year, but I think we’ve saved wisely and budgeted conservatively and will be able to deal with that next year without too much difficulty.”

Commissioners then discussed what would be the city’s priorities as the new fiscal year begins.

Those topics include, in no particular order:

• increased focus on the Covington/Newport bicycle plan
• medical marijuana business operations plan
• the 13th St. Shelter management review
• the Licking Riverside traffic proposal in conjunction with the Fourth Street bridge
• conversion of Scott and Greenup Streets to two-way
• a stormwater project for 36th and Park
• increased focus on affordable housing
• the franchise agreement with Duke
• finance department operations policies and procedures update
• updated ordinance to the current budget practices
• accounting for the CCR development
• develop a plan to achieve full independence so that the Parking Authority is no longer on the city of Covington’s books
• record keeping
• managing the city’s health insurance costs going forward
• the Welcome to Covington sign and
• collection of taxes

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

John Street and Berry Street Properties

Commissioners heard proposals on two properties:

1122 John St.: Request to execute a disposition and development agreement between the City of Covington and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati, for the sale of a vacant, city-owned surplus residential lot at 1122 John St., city documents say. The only respondent was Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati. This lot will be part of the partnership between the city and Habitat for Humanity that will ultimately yield eight newly constructed, single-family homes that are affordable to families with incomes in the 30-80 percent AMI range.

The request was placed on the regular agenda at next week’s legislative meeting.

310 Berry St.: Request to execute a disposition and development agreement between the city and TPM Capital, LLC for the sale of a vacant, city-owned surplus residential lot at 310 Berry Street. The only respondent was TPM Capital, LLC, city documents say. The city has an established track record with the developer as TMP Capital also purchased 1530 Holman last year. The developer intends to construct a shotgun style home that will ultimately be marketed to potential home buyers.

The request was placed on next week’s consent agenda.

Short-term rentals

Commissioners heard a proposed ordinance amendment to the neighborhood development code, changing non-host occupied short-term rentals from a conditional use to a limited use for six districts.

The Kenton County Planning Commission held a public hearing on Thursday, May 2, and voted to recommend adoption of the text amendment that will re-categorize Non-Host Occupied Short-Term Rentals as Limited Use in six districts, moving approval responsibility from the board to a staff level. It also requires Short-Term Rental Dwelling Licenses to be obtained from Code Enforcement, removes use specific standards, and amends the definition of Short-Term Rental, Non-Host Occupied. The districts changed will be the SR {Suburban Residential), SU (Semi-Urban), DTC (Downtown Core), TUMU (Traditional Urban Mixed Use), TUR (Traditional Urban Residential), and AUC (Auto Urban Commercial) Districts.

The change will get a first reading at next week’s legislative meeting.

Elm Street Alley

Commissioners heard a proposed order for a maintenance agreement for Elm Street Alley, a right-of-way that provides access for the public to the Radisson Hotel and parking lot. The prior license issued by the city in 2007 expired in 2020, “which was just realized by the current license holder,” city documents say. This order would grant the same license, expiring in 2040.

The request was placed on next week’s consent agenda.

Resignations and New Hires

Commissioners heard proposals for resignations and new hires for:

Resignation – Jan Taylor, Part Time Staff Accountant, Finance Department
Hiring – Andrew Burk, Grade 1 Firefighter, Fire Department

Both were placed on next week’s consent agenda.

Next Meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., May 28, at the City Building at 20 W. Pike St. in Covington. There will also be a special budget meeting at 9 a.m., Saturday, May 18, at the same location. The caucus can be followed live on Fioptics channel 815, Spectrum channel 203, the Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky (TBNK) website, the TBNK Facebook page @TBNKonline, and the TBNK Roku channels.

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