CINCINNATI - Hamilton County commissioners on Monday approved a 2013 budget that may result in the layoff of about 150 Hamilton County employees due to $14 million in cuts.
The spending plan is for $192 million, down $14.4 million from this year and $65 million since 2007.
The vote was 2-1 with Republicans Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel voting "yes" and Democrat Todd Portune saying "no."
Hartmann said he wanted a unanimous vote, but Portune said he couldn't go along with the plan.
"We are spending what we take in," commission President Hartmann said.
Monzel added the county is doing what other families and small businesses are doing in these tough economic times.
"You can only spend what you take in," Monzel said. "We can't print our own money like Washington. We can't go into debt. We have to balance our budget every year by law and we're going to do that."
"We're not using one-time sources. We're not raising taxes. We're not hitting different sources of funding for one-year to balance the budget," Hartmann added. "We're doing it in a structurally sound way."
Portune lamented that the county has done more with less the past five years and will continue to do so.
"We've done more than any other body of government that I'm aware of with less and still maintained, but at some point the only thing that happens with less is less, and we've crossed that threshold going into 2013," Portune said.
The plan Portune favored would be to issue bonds in anticipation of future property tax collections. Hartmann said he disagreed.
"I don't think that the times call for us to add debt to increase this budget," Hartmann said. "I would view this as structurally imbalanced and don't support that."
The biggest cuts will come to the auditor, recorder and treasurer offices. Each is getting a 25 percent reduction in spending. The department heads will decide how the cuts are made. For a full breakdown of how the cuts are made, go to http://goo.gl/Pw4WS .
The sheriff's office will lose about $4 million in funding for 2013. The impact of that isn't clear, since Democrat Jim Neil takes over as Sheriff in January from Republican Simon Leis, Jr. Neil wants to conduct a thorough audit of operations when he takes office in January. He said in any organization you can find 10 percent waste.
Sandy Dean has worked for the Hamilton County Recorder's Office 10 years and never taken a sick day.
"I personally am very dedicated," she said Monday. "To me, that's the number one priority -- my job."
However, as the holidays approach, the Price Hill wife and mother admitted she's worried about her future employment.
"It's very stressful when you never know if you're going to have a job when you walk in," she said.
Dean's concern comes from the approved 2013 Hamilton County General Fund Budget.
Recorder Wayne Coates said the office used to have 41 employees, but is now down to 22. The 2008 budget was $2.2 million, $1.4 million this year and will be just over $1 million for 2013.
The office oversees documents like deeds, mortgages and living wills.
"The service level for the public is really going to suffer," Coates said.
Dean said she doesn't think the public really sees what the office does and understands how much has already been cut.
Options are limited. Coates can either trim the number of days per week the office is open from five to four, lay off more employees or do nothing and wait for commissioners to act at the end of the year.
"We're pretty much cut to the bone already," he added.
While acknowledging the county's budget woes, Coates said he didn't think a fair fiscal picture was being painted of his office.
"This year we'll be taking in over $7 million on document fees that are set by the Ohio Revised Code," he said. "We're only costing the county $1.4 million, so they're making money on us and they're balancing the budget on us and they're really on our backs."
Dean said her concern extends well beyond the recorder's office.
"My husband had been laid off of work for two years and I'm basically the only income," she said. "I carry the health insurance. I am pretty much the breadwinner."
With the budget behind them, commissioners now turn to the thorny issue of trying to correct a projected shortfall in the stadium sales tax fund.
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