Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Hamilton County's administration is recommending massive layoffs, departmental consolidation and severe public safety cuts to balance the bleakest budget in memory.
Administrator Patrick Thompson on Monday unveiled details of the 2009 plan, which would eliminate 532 county jobs - 18 percent of the county's general fund positions - by the end of February.
The plan would also close the 800-bed Queensgate jail by March and eliminate sheriff's patrols in the county's three largest townships, Green, Colerain and Anderson.
Public safety officials balked at the recommendations.
"The county administrator is jeopardizing the public safety of this county by recommending the cuts to the sheriff's office," said sheriff's spokesman Steve Barnett. Sheriff Simon Leis "is amazed and appalled that the county commissioners list their No.1 priority as public safety, yet on these cuts public safety is absorbing 38 to 40 percent of the cuts."
And, although commissioners insist public safety is a top priority, "there's only so much money to spend and when it's gone, it's gone," said Commission President Todd Portune. "This is an incredibly difficult process. I expect what is presented to us today is going to shock a number of people in terms of the cuts that might be recommended."
Because public safety makes up two-thirds of the county's overall budget, there's no way to balance it without hurting that area, commissioners said.
They stressed that these recommendations are not final. The three-member commission will hold public hearings, meet with department heads and revise the recommendations before adopting a final budget by the end of the year. [Mark Godsey]