Hamilton Co. commissioners consider a budget that covers 'more than the bare necessities'
Hamilton County commissioners will approve a new $1 billion budget by the end of the year. That includes a $313.4 million general fund budget, up from about $291 million last year.
The proposed budget includes a reserve of 19.6% of the general fund. President Stephanie Summerow Dumas says that's far above the industry standard of 15% reserve.
"It's just remarkable, I would say miraculous, with the increase of the reserve that we have during a pandemic," she said. "We remained efficient. We allocated the monies that needed to be allocated."
Commissioner Denise Driehaus says this budget prioritizes the wellbeing of county employees.
"We've got tuition and reimbursement in this budget. We've got a new parental leave policy that we passed a couple months ago. There's training in this budget. We are very committed to having market rate compensation for Hamilton County as we compare ourselves to other counties and other entities," Driehaus said. "So I'm glad that these things were included here. We need to dignify the work of the folks that work for Hamilton County and I think this budget goes a long way in doing that."
The budget also includes a 3% wage increase for all non-bargaining county employees.
General fund revenue is steady thanks to a one-quarter percent increase in the sales tax starting last year. (The tax was a continuation of the now former Union Terminal restoration levy, which expired March 31, 2020. Collections for the county's levy began April 1, 2020.)
"We always structurally balance our budget, but this one's a little different because it's just a little bit more than the bare necessities," Driehaus said. "And the tax increase of a couple years ago just allows us to do that."
Property tax revenue has also been stable, while court fees and fines have been suppressed by the pandemic.
The Department of Job and Family Services accounts for more than $255 million of the total budget. Former JFS Director Tim McCartney retired this year.
"And so that's why I keep my eye on not just this budget, but who's going to be in charge of it," said Vice President Alicia Reece. "Who will be the next Jobs and Family Services director, and what direction do we need to go?"
Commissioners are expected to approve a final budget on Dec. 14. The public can weigh in on the budget process at public hearings over the next few weeks:
- Wednesday, Nov. 10, 6:30 p.m.: Silverton Town Hall (6943 Montgomery Road)
- Wednesday, Nov. 17, 6:30 p.m: Forest Park Senior Center Hall (11555 Winton Road)
- Thursday, Dec. 2, 1:15 p.m: County Government building (138 E. Court Street, Room 605)