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Hamilton Co. commission approves 2023 budget with more spending for housing, support services

Bill Rinehart

Hamilton County commissioners on Thursday approved a $354 million general operating budget for 2023, boosting spending from last year's $325 million financial plan.

In a separate vote during the same meeting, commission voted 2-1 to raise Metropolitan Sewer District rates by 3%.

The budget includes funding boosts for mental health, addiction recovery and youth resiliency services, as well as housing, economic development, and infrastructure like bike paths.

Commissioners approved the budget unanimously, saying it struck a balance between fiscal responsibility and provision of new services and opportunities.

Commission Vice President Alicia Reece highlighted a big investment in housing issues, including an extra $5 million mortgage assistance for county homeowners and more money for affordable housing development.

"When we said we wanted to focus on affordable housing, we took a bold step and put $40 million toward it," she said.

Commission President Stephanie Summerow Dumas and Commissioner Denise Driehaus highlighted funds to help overlooked parts of Hamilton County. Dumas spoke about money available to smaller municipalities like Lincoln Heights. Driehaus pointed out $500,000 in the budget for bike paths, which she said would likely go in areas that previously have been underserved by that kind of infrastructure.

"Millvale and South Cumminsville and Camp Washington and the Fairmounts — these are communities that are longing for opportunities for investment," she said. "I think a trail that will provide that opportunity — whether it's private or public — would be great."

The budget commissioners approved varies somewhat from the one recommended by Hamilton County administration. Among items commission prioritized:

— $1 million for tourism and economic development grants focused on supporting large events in Hamilton County
— $500,000 to fund bike trail projects benefiting Hamilton County
— $250,000 for economic development efforts in suburban communities through the support of smaller, community-focused events
— $200,000 for a feasibility study on potential development of a youth sports facility
— $250,000 for grants to “Beyond Your Imagination,” a program providing cultural experiences and interaction for foster care youth or children in the care of Job and Family Services
— $400,000 for expanding gender-based violence education in schools
— $350,000 for operational costs associated with the Black Music Walk of Fame

MSD rate increase

After approving the all-funds budget, commissioners approved the Metropolitan Sewer District budget and voted 2-1 to raise rates charged by the MSD by 3%. That increase would cost the average rate payer about $18 per year.

Commissioner Reece voted against the increase, suggesting the county use one-time funds to plug a budget gap at MSD and spend the next year looking at alternative ways to address budget issues.

The new rate will go into effect in January. MSD cut more than $8 million from the original budget request to keep the increase to just 3%.

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