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Hamilton County Sets 2019 Budget

Bill Rinehart
Commissioners approved a budget on a 2-1 vote Wednesday afternoon.

Hamilton County commissioners have approved a 2019 budget. It's $18 million less than what would have been spent had it mirrored this year's spending plan.

County Administrator Jeff Aluotto says it cuts spending and programs but doesn't provide a fix for some of the county's more lasting issues.

"There is no long-term solution identified for the issue of jail capacity. There is no long-term fix for funding our 911 system, no comprehensive solution for the $150 million of deferred maintenance on county buildings and systems, and no global solution for fixing the market salary inequities of the county employee base," Aluotto says, adding these are all things the board will have to look at next year.

Commissioners will meet with the heads of county departments on a quarterly basis again in 2019. Board President Todd Portune says it will help them keep those offices in line with their budgets "and to see whether we are in a position to reconsider, on a quarterly basis, any of the actions that we are taking today that people may consider onerous."

Portune says the quarterly meetings will allow the commissioners to offset some of the cuts if the county's financial situation improves.

Commissioner Denise Driehaus says the board is trying to have a "broader conversation with this community about how we move forward as a county."

There was a task force created this year to find efficiencies in county government. The FORWARD Initiative was told to deliver a report by Dec. 31.

"We are also going to talk about any additional needed revenue in order to accomplish what we are trying to accomplish, and that is provide for fair court systems, provide for public safety, provide for care for kids who are challenged in this community," Driehaus says. 

The 2019 general fund budget included some new revenue, including increases to the property transfer tax, and building and inspection fees, as well as creating a new fee for the county's Earthwork Program. Driehaus and Portune approved those in a separate vote, while Commissioner Chris Monzel voted in opposition.

The budget increases the 911 detail rate for communities by a dollar, and restores at least partial funding to a number of programs including heroin treatment and the heroin task force, Fusion Center operations, and economic development.

It restores funding for a 4-H educator as well. "We heard a lot about that during the public hearings," Driehaus says. "We're trying to find that funding outside the general fund. I'm optimistic about that." 

Monzel opposed the overall budget without comment. His own budget proposal restored many of the same programs but did not include the new fees. His plan drew funding from parking revenue and increased interest from investments.