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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Hamilton County Departments Making Budget Reductions

Bill Rinehart

Hamilton County departments and elected officials have found ways to cut $20 million to $30 million so far from this year's budget. That's about half of the projected shortfall from the coronavirus pandemic. 

Those reductions include placing 240 county employees on furloughs.

Officials expect this year's budget to have a $40 million to $60 million hole.

County sales tax revenues have declined significantly with people staying home and not spending money.

County Administrator Jeff Aluotto outlined some of the budget saving measures in press briefing Wednesday.

"Those plans involve non-personnel reductions, they involve use of furloughs, salary reductions, reallocations of restricted funds, and those plans are going into effect now, and they will go into effect on a rolling basis as departments and elected offices are able to implement them," Aluotto said.

The range in the deficit number is because the county is still waiting on data about revenues.

Alutto said the crisis started in March, but officials won't have those sales tax numbers until June.

"So we're making decisions on the fly right now without a full complement of data that we really want," Aluotto said. "Now hopefully we'll start to see some more news from the state later on this month as to what they saw in March, and that should give us a little bit more information on which to plan."

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval told WVXU he's reduced his budget by $1.1 million. All of his employees are either on furlough or taking a pay cut. Pureval cut his own pay by 15%.

Pureval is furloughing 182 employees for 11 days. Half of those are off now until April 29. The other half will be furloughed from April 30 through May 13.

Pureval said he was making the decisions about the budget for three reasons.

"First, revenue is down at the courthouse and with less people using our services, we require less staff to work," Pureval said in a statement. "Second, having less staff on the premises complies with good social distancing practices and makes our courthouse safer.  And third, it is our hope that by acting fast and taking these steps today, we can avoid other cuts in the future."

County officials say they're still hoping federal lawmakers will offer some assistance to help local governments across the country deal with revenue shortfalls.

On Wednesday, the county administration provided a spreadsheet of budget reductions by department. It was described as a working document because departments are still working on reductions and making changes.

Right now it highlights $25,998,440 in budget reductions:

  • $25,000                 Auditor
  • $2,000,000          Board of Elections
  • $1,100,000           Clerk of Courts
  • $1,250,000           Commissioners and County Administration
  • $983,900              Communications Center
  • $2,692,000           Contracts and Subsidies
  • $445,000              Coroner
  • $2,000,920          County Facilities
  • $5,000                   Court of Appeals
  • $3,900,000          Common Pleas Court/Municipal Court/Probation/Court reporters
  • $75,000                 Court of Domestic Relations
  • $3,285,000           Economic Development Department
  • $750,000               Juvenile Court
  • $1,922,500            Non-Departmentals
  • $813,200               Planning and Development
  • $140,000               Probate Court
  • $500,000              Prosecutor
  • $1,675,920            Public Defender
  • $3,000                   Recorder
  • $2,300,000           Sheriff
  • $97,000                 Treasurer
  • $35,000                 Veterans Service Commission
Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.