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Hamilton County commissioners approve 2022 budget with new priorities, no MSD rate increase

Becca Costello

The newly approved Hamilton County budget includes a new Office of Youth Development, Small Business Office and more staff for the 513 Relief bus. Commissioners unanimously approved the 2022 budget Thursday.

The General Fund budget is about $325 million, roughly 11% higher than the 2021 general fund.

President Stephanie Summerow Dumas says she's grateful for the extra revenue from federal stimulus and the continuation of the one-quarter percent sales tax increase.

"I'm just thinking about the things that we're adding on, the initiatives, and what we're able to follow through, an increase in monies, and how this scenario could be so different," she says.

Commissioners made several changes to the full all-funds budget recommended by County Administrator Jeff Aluotto:

  • Five new staff for the 513 Relief program through Job and Family Services (for a total of 10 positions)
  • An increase of $1.5 million, for a total of $3 million, to the Community Revitalization Grant program
  • $100,000 for staffing of a small business office through HCDC
  • $300,000 for a small-business storefront and assistance grant
  • $350,000 from the General Fund Reserve to support bike trail enhancements
  • $500,000 through the Children's Services Levy to support the county-wide expansion of Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team programming

Small businesses are a big priority for Vice President Alicia Reece in the spending plan.
"I think we've done a great job with this budget," Reece said. "It has been inclusive, has been technology based, we got broadband in here, we've got affordable housing in here. We've got so much in here. It is truly a people's budget."

The budget includes $500,000 to enhance land ownership among Black-owed businesses, with a plan on how to spend that money expected by next summer.

Commissioner Denise Driehaus says one of her priorities was the $1.5 million from the American Rescue Plan to go toward COVID-19 testing.

"I've heard some concerns throughout the community related to pulling back on testing and I don't think now is the time for that," Driehaus said. "And so there's some money here for us to continue to work in that space, it might look a little different than what we've done in the past. But I think it's still important to set aside some dollars for that purpose."

No rate increase for MSD, but it could come in the future

Commissioners also approved a $231 million budget for MSD with no rate increase for 2022. MSD Director Diana Christy says they adjusted their budget request after hearing feedback from commissioners and the public, reducing their ask by about $6 million.

"Given the budget that we have presented and knowing that we have been experiencing cost increases, MSD will have to carefully monitor the budget in 2022 and will advise the board of any funding needs," Christy said.

MSD's water rates haven't increased since 2015, but Christy says that could be a necessity next year.

County officials have the authority to set MSD rates, although the entire MSD budget is funded by ratepayers and some grants, loans, and bond revenue. Commissioners also approved a five-year capital improvement plan for MSD, with about $33 million for 43 projects.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.