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At Final Public Hearing, Commissioners Hear Pleas For 4-H, Heroin Treatment Funding

Bill Rinehart
Susan and Shannon Linko and furry friends testify in favor of 4-H funding.

Hamilton County commissioners have more than a month left before they have to approve a 2019 general fund budget. They'd like to approve a spending plan before that though. At the third and final public hearing on the budget Tuesday night in Colerain Township, they heard "compelling testimony" and "cogent arguments" against some of the proposed cuts.

Board President Todd Portune was speaking specifically of the children who spoke at the hearing, saying they "have touched our hearts in many ways relative to the decisions that we have to make."

At this meeting, and at the two before it, multiple minors, and a few adults spoke against cutting nearly $30,000 for a 4-H educator position. It's one item on the chopping block in a proposal that reduces spending by $21 million, to address a $29 million deficit.

Karen Strosser is the assistant advisor to the Western Hills 4-H club. She says the families who participate do raise money, but adds the advisor ensures the integrity of the program. Anna Strosser says, "Having a dedicated educator is an essential part of supporting us in helping us access resources to do the best job we can. This also supports and ties our program together in the way only a paid position can do."

Commissioners also are considering cutting funding for economic development efforts, including the Port Authority, reducing support for heroin treatment services, and eliminating sheriff's patrols in some townships. They are also looking at raising the fee communities pay for each call to the Hamilton County 911 center.

"If you take away the help for the heroin addicts, there will definitely be an increase in the number of 911 calls," Ryan Dattilo told commissioners. He identified himself as a recovering addict, and spoke in favor of support for the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition.

"If you invest money in that program, we as productive members of society will come back and pay money in taxes and in doing services and jobs in the community that improve life instead of just taking things away from the budget," Dattilo says.

Portune says he hopes to have budget deliberations complete by November 30. He also wants to have consensus by December 3, with a vote on December 5. Portune says while the budget hearings are over, commissioners will still accept input at their regularly scheduled meetings, and through correspondence.