Hundreds of jobs may be cut from Hamilton County budget next year

HAMILTON, Ohio - Hamilton County Commissioners learned on Monday that revenues in 2012 are down drastically, and this could have a major impact on the Hamilton County budget next year.

Officials said major cuts are on the way, and the cuts could mean hundreds of jobs lost.

The 2013 preliminary forecast budget was submitted by county administrator Christian Sigman, reporting that the county needs to cut $20 million from next year's general fund to break even.

Seventy percent of the general fund is county jobs, meaning the reduction could affect as many as 330 employees.

County Commissioner Greg Hartmann says he is not in favor of a tax increase, which means the only alternative is to cut costs. Personnel costs are the larges expense for the county.

"I'm not prepared to say what the magnitude of those layoffs may or may not be, but $20 million is a big number," said Hartmann.

The county has already made $80 million in cuts over the last four years. There would now only be $180 million available for the general fund, which covers a number of departments such as the sheriff's department, prosecutor's office and the court systems.

There are a number of reasons listed in the report for the budget shortfall, including stagnant sales tax revenues and increased costs associated with the sheriff's office, which is the largest county department.

"The key words are projections and county-wide," said Chief Deputy Sheriff Sean Donovan, who handles budgeting for the department.

Donovan said they are already working at staff minimums after nearly 300 sheriff's workers were laid off four years ago. He said his goal is to keep the sheriff's workers intact.

"There may be some services we can't provide. Record checks, things like that," said Donovan. "But our goal is to maintain our personnel," he added.

Hartmann agreed. "If it doesn't go to making sure we have a safe community, that's the number one job of any government. We're gonna not be able to do it anymore," he said.

Hartmann said that all critical services will remain through budget cuts, but the public may notice a difference in services.
"I think the citizens need to understand that for us to live within our means, just means we can't do a lot things we used to do in the past," he said.

The general fund shortfall does not include the deficit associated with the stadium fund which is projected to be $15 million, according to Hartmann.

Letters will go out on Tuesday to county agencies to let them know how much they will be expected to cut.  Officials said at least three agencies will be asked to cut 30 percent from the budget.

This is the beginning of the budget process which won't be finalized until December.

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