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Administrator: About 240 Hamilton County employees furloughed, more to come

Posted at 12:55 PM, Apr 22, 2020

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio – About 240 Hamilton County employees have been furloughed and more furloughs are expected, administrator Jeff Alutto said Wednesday.

The furloughs are part of the county’s effort to combat a $40 to $60 million budget gap, which is about 15 to 20% of the county's general fund budget.

The county relies on sales tax revenue, Alutto said, and because collection of sales tax is delayed three months, officials may not know the full financial impact until June.

“We know that the hit is coming, we just haven’t seen it in full yet,” Alutto said.

Officials asked departments to reduce budgets to compensate for the shortfall. Alutto said about $20 to $30 million in savings has come from reconfiguring budgets, furloughing employees, reducing salaries and the reallocation of restricted funds.

Alutto said the current number of furloughed employees is solely related to the county general fund population, which is about 2,000 employees.

Of those furloughed, about 170 are from the clerk of courts office, and the vast majority of furloughs have already begun, Alutto said.

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval said in a news release that employees will be furloughed in waves in an effort to keep the courthouse running.

“We are making these difficult decisions for three reasons: First, revenue is down at the courthouse and with less people using our services, we require less staff to work,” Pureval said. “Second, having less staff on the premises complies with good social distancing practices and makes our courthouse safer. And third, it is our hope that by acting fast and taking these steps today, we can avoid other cuts in the future.”

Pureval said he is taking a 15% pay cut, and all senior management and non-furloughed managers are also taking pay cuts.

Additionally, Hamilton County commissioners have taken a 10% pay cut.

Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus said county officials are limited in how they can use $142 million in federal dollars.

“There are new dollars and it’s helpful … however we’ve got this huge hole in the budget,” Driehaus said.

Driehaus said some of the funds will go unused if the language surrounding the money is not loosened.

“It’s like, if you’re in a household, it’s like saying, ‘Alright, I'm going to give you the money, you can only spend it on masks, you can't keep the lights on, you can’t pay the utility bills, you can't pay the rent or the mortgage, so you're going to be sitting in the dark with the mask on,’” Driehaus said.