CINCINNATI - Will suggested cuts to the 2012 Hamilton County budget jeopardize public safety in townships using county-funded sheriff's deputies for road patrols?
That's one of the key questions waiting for an answer from the three County Commissioners, who have to trim $13 million in spending to balance next year's budget.
The fiscal challenges are due to lower state aid, the 2013 elimination of the estate tax and falling property values.
Sheriff Simon Leis, Jr., has been asked to cut $4.5 million from his budget responded with possible layoffs and jail space reductions.
A total of 150 deputies patrol 10 townships with the townships paying the cost of 85 positions. The remaining 65 are paid for by the county and the Sheriff has proposed cutting 29 of those jobs.
"The commissioners have a responsibility to the townships and to the county in general to maintain patrols," said Chief Deputy Sean Donovan.
As the General Fund budget has shrunk, Donovan said people have already been laid off and jail space constricted.
"The economy and the budget crunch have affected public safety," he said. "We want to not affect it anymore. We want to maintain visible law enforcement in the county and in the patrols."
Neither Delhi Township nor Springfield Township is affected, since each has its own police department.
Donovan said it's not likely that Crosby, Harrison and Whitewater Townships will lose their 10 county-funded deputies because they're the only police presence for those communities.
The rest of the townships stack up this way…
Township contract positions – 25
Township direct-pay positions - 1
County-funded positions - 11
Township contract positions – 4
Township direct-pay positions – 4
County-funded positions - 15
Township contract positions – 6
Township direct-pay positions – 2
County-funded positions - 6
Township contract positions – 6
County-funded positions – 5
SYCAMORE/SYMMES COLUMBIA TOWNSHIPS
County-funded positions – 18
Township contracted positions – 7
Township contract positions - 17
Township contract positions – 12
Green Township Police Chief Bart West said the deputies supplement his 33-member police force for the community of 58,000 residents.
"I think it's a situation where we just don't have any money to either add additional Green Township officers nor to pay the Sheriff any more money," he said. "We're under a lot of budget constraints just like everybody else is today."
Chief West said he feels cuts will impact the community, which he believes already has one of the worst police officer to citizen ratios in the county at 1-1,288.
"Obviously, when you cut the number of officers, it's going to slow down response time and theoretically could reduce the safety of our citizens," he said.
Larry Emley, who manages the Wine Shop at Bridgetown Better Meats on Bridgetown Road, said he understands the budget constraints, but doesn't want to see service reductions.
"I think it would really be a shame to cut those deputies," he said. "They perform a very valuable service for the township and I think to lose that basic service would be horrible."
Emley added he would not be opposed to raising the sales tax or the property tax to keep existing services intact.
"I don't want to pay more taxes than anybody else, but you've got to be realistic about these things, too," he stated.