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Tuesday is your last chance to weigh in on Hamilton County's budget

Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, from left: Stephanie Summerow Dumas, President Alicia Reece, and Vice President Denise Driehaus.
Becca Costello
Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, from left: Stephanie Summerow Dumas, President Alicia Reece, and Vice President Denise Driehaus.

Hamilton County's budget season is in full swing.

The county's administration has released its proposed $1.3 billion all-funds spending plan, which includes $395 million in general fund spending.

Now it's time for county commissioners — and the public — to weigh in.

At a Dec. 5 budget hearing, commissioners mostly applauded the proposed budget, which preserves current initiatives despite having to contend with a higher-than usual deficit.

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"We had roughly a $40 million gap between what was being requested from departments and what we were projecting in revenues for next year," County Administrator Jeff Aluotto told commissioners. "That's much higher than what has been seen in the past couple years, but we closed that gap with a combination of reductions to departmental requests as well as modest program reductions."

There are a few places where commissioners would like to see changes, however.

Commission President Alicia Reece said she's adamant about changes to the way the county serves its veterans.

Recent reporting by WCPO shows the Hamilton County Veterans Service Office is serving fewer veterans and spending significantly less money than surrounding counties spend, despite the fact Hamilton County has the most veterans in the region.

"I cannot accept this budget as-is, with the veterans section, Reece said. "We already have the data that only 500, maybe 1,000 veterans were served with that same budget, with 42,000 veterans plus their families that are out here."

WCPO's reporting says the Hamilton County VSO was allocated more than $7 million in 2022 but only spent about $1 million of that allocation.

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There will be other decisions to make in the budget, commissioners said. The administration's proposed budget calls for a 3.5% pay raise for county employees. But it's not clear yet how much of that will be a cost of living increase given to all employees and how much will go to merit pay — either raises or one-time bonuses — for high-performing workers.

"There's a lot of different ways we can cut this, but what I'm hearing from the board is a desire to ensure that the workforce keeps up with inflation, but also a desire to ensure that high performers are rewarded," Aluotto said. "So we can continue to work on options for that and come back to the board with something."

Commissioners are also looking to hear from the public. They'll hold one final public budget hearing Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. at the Silverton Municipal Building.

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.