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Sheriff and Prosecutor offices lead expenses as county budget tracking higher than projections

Hamilton County Commissioners say they're not overly concerned about the county budget situation but they want to watch it closely to make sure there are no unexpected surprises.

Nine of the county's 29 general fund departments are tracking over budget. The two largest are the Sheriff's and Prosecutor's offices.

Commission President Chris Monzel says, "the Sheriff's Department is the driver of the general fund. It is the largest department. Public safety is our number one priority so we need to make sure that he has the tools and resources to get the job done for public safety. But at the same time, are there any efficiencies or things he can put in place to do cost cutting measures to get within the budget."

The Sheriff's department is conducting an audit looking for ways to cut costs. So far, several administrative positions have been cut. The office is tracking almost $4.5 million over budget  Commissioner Todd Portune says that number doesn't quite tell the truth though. He points out the Indigent Care Levy was cut during the last levy cycle.

"At that reduced level, the money had to be made up from somewhere so it was taken from the Sheriff's Office," he says. "It's not that they're spending money inappropriately or those expenses are too high or that the Sheriff's Office isn't minding the dollars and cents of their operation. It's that a major source of revenue that that office has always had, it no longer has."

Portune is also frustrated by the board's lack of action on a verbal request from the jail for additional electronic monitoring devices as a way to reduce overcrowding. However, a formal request from the Sheriff's Office has not been made.

Overall general fund expenditures are currently projecting $5.3 million over budget.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.