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Who Should Take The Hit On Hamilton County Budget?

Bill Rinehart
Hamilton County commissioners have until the end of December to approve a 2019 budget.

Hamilton County commissioners have less than a month before they have to approve a 2019 general fund budget. Two of the three commissioners are releasing their takes on what the budget should look like.

The budget proposal introduced by the county administrator is based on a $29 million shortfall.

Administrator Jeff Aluotto recommends making $21 million in cuts across the board, with public safety and economic development taking larger hits. Aluotto's proposal also includes $8 million in new revenue from raising earthwork and building fees, an increased property transfer fee and new charges to communities for 911 calls and sheriff's patrols.

Commissioner Denise Driehaus wants to restore some of the specific cuts. "We've got some better than previously projected revenue from the sales tax and investment revenue, so we have a few dollars to try to plug in," she says.

Her plan restores funding for the Heroin Task Force, the Fusion Center, REDI, HCDC, Port Authority and the Transportation Improvement District.

Driehaus proposes using other sources, including restricted funds to pay for some programs "particularly when it comes to addiction treatment funding and the 4-H individual, trying to find those in other places, I don't know at this moment in time if that's possible."

The administrator's budget cut $30,000 for the county's 4-H educator. That line item drew the most comments at the three public hearings on the budget. Nearly all the speakers were in favor of funding the position.

Commissioner Chris Monzel's proposal restores some of the same programs but removes the new revenue sources. Instead, he cites other sources including parking revenues and increased interest from investments.

Monzel cuts some spending altogether, including $2 million for salary increases and $2.4 million for court reporters. "It's been over 11 years we've been talking about court reporters. I believe we're one of the few counties in the state of Ohio that actually still uses court reporters. Most use digital recording devices that cost much less."

This could be the last county budget Monzel works on. He lost a re-election bid in November and his term is nearly up.

Commission President Todd Portune says he wants input on the 2019 budget from Commissioner-elect Stephanie Dumas.

Portune has yet to release his own budget proposal, but in a memo he says his framework will be "around issues of economic development, public safety, tax policy and public health."