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by Andy Brownfield 11.05.2012

County Commission President Lays Out Budget Plan

"Austerity budget" rejects tax increases

The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some taxes.

Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30 percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.

“It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said. 

He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls.

Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000  or 0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3 percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5 percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department.

Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic development is not possible without it.

Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman.

Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions.

Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget.

Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own budget proposal as well.

“An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said.

The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by the following week.

He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal.

“Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different visions in terms of solutions.” 

Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major party challenger.

Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s waiting for the election results.

“I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking that’s what you were going to go with.”

by German Lopez 12.10.2012
Posted In: Privatization, News, Budget, Courts, Economy, Casino at 09:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking privatization deal reached, rape flier case could be unsealed, casino revenue drops

The city of Cincinnati and its largest city employees union have reached a deal regarding the privatization of the city’s parking assets. Under the deal’s terms, the city will give raises and not lay off anyone for three years, but only if the city’s parking assets are privatized. However, the head of a Clifton community group is still not happy with the privatization plan. He says the plan is bad for business because it limits the amount of affordable parking in the area. But would laying off 344 city employees be better for business?

The identity of the Miami University student who put up the infamous “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier may soon be revealed. The Ohio Supreme Court will decide by Dec. 14 whether the case should be unsealed and open to public view. Robert Lyons, the Butler County part-time judge who sealed the case, has faced scrutiny in the past few months for conflicts of interest regarding drinking-and-driving cases.

Revenue from casinos in Toledo and Cleveland is dropping. The numbers paint a bad picture for Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials expecting budget problems to be solved by casino revenue.

A proposal mandating drug testing for welfare recipients in Ohio resurfaced last week. Republican legislators claim the requirement will save the state money, but a similar proposal in Florida added to budget woes as the state was forced to pay for drug tests.

Ohio’s ultra-wealthy population is growing. About 1,330 Ohioans are worth $30 million or more, an increase of 2 percent since 2011, according to a report from Wealth-X. The news could shape Gov. John Kasich’s plan to cut the income tax using revenue from a higher oil-and-gas severance tax, perhaps encouraging state officials to make the cut more progressive.

Gov. Kasich is ending the practice of giving so many tax credits to keep businesses in Ohio. The move could potentially cost the state jobs as businesses move to other areas with bigger, better incentives, but state officials and the business community don’t seem too worried for now.

If the Ohio government agencies were forced to cut their budgets by 10 percent, the results would not be pretty. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction would have to close prisons, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would have a tougher time enforcing new regulations on fracking.

Ohio’s exotic animal law is facing a challenge in federal court today. Exotic animal owners claim the law violates their First Amendment and property rights by forcing them to join private associations and give up their animals without compensation. They also do not like the provision that requires microchips be implanted into the animals. The Humane Society of the United States is defending the law, which was passed after a man released 56 exotic animals and killed himself in 2011.

An Ohio court said a business tax on fuel sales must be used on road projects.

Ohio gas prices are still dropping.

The cure for leukemia could be a modified version of the AIDS virus.

by German Lopez 12.05.2012
Posted In: 2013 Election, News, Energy, Mayor, Budget, Fracking at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Qualls to run for mayor, city budget proposal raises taxes, local fracking control demanded

It will soon be official. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls will announce her mayoral campaign on Thursday at 10 a.m. Qualls has already announced her candidacy and platform on her website. Qualls will be joined by term-limited Mayor Mark Mallory, which could indicate support from the popular mayor. Right now, Qualls’ only known opponent is former Democratic city councilman John Cranley, who has spoken out against the streetcar project Qualls supports.

As part of City Manager Milton Dohoney’s budget proposal, anyone who lives in Cincinnati but works elsewhere could lose a tax credit. The budget proposal also eliminates the property tax rollback and moves to privatize the city’s parking services, which Dohoney says is necessary if the city wants to avoid 344 layoffs. The mayor and City Council must approve Dohoney’s budget before it becomes law. City Council is set to vote on the budget on Dec. 14. Public hearings for the budget proposal will be held in City Hall Thursday at 6 p.m. and in the Corryville Recreation Center Dec. 10 at 6 p.m.

Vice Mayor Qualls and Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan are pushing a resolution that demands local control over hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” activity. But the resolution will have no legal weight, so the state will retain full control over fracking operations even if the resolution is passed. Qualls and Quinlivan will also hold a press conference today at 1:15 p.m. at City Hall to discuss problems with fracking, which has come under fire by environmentalist groups due to concerns about air pollution and water contamination caused during the drilling-and-disposal process.

Greater Cincinnati hospitals had mixed results in a new round of scores from Washington, D.C.-based Leapfrog Group.

In an effort to comply with cost cutting, the Hamilton County recorder is eliminating Friday office hours.

The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments is looking for feedback for the Tristate’s transportation and economic plans.

This year’s drought is coming to an end in a lot of places, but not southwest Ohio.

The Ohio Senate passed a concussion bill that forces student athletes to be taken off the field as soon as symptoms of a concussion are detected.

As the state government pushes regulations or even an outright ban on Internet cafes, one state legislator is suggesting putting the issue on the ballot. State officials argue unregulated Internet cafes are “ripe for organized crime” and money laundering. An Ohio House committee is set to vote on the issue today. If passed, the bill will likely put Internet cafes that use sweepstakes machines out of business.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich could be preparing for a 2016 campaign. Kasich was caught privately courting Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who spent millions on Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney’s failed campaigns for the presidency. The early meetup shows how valued super PAC funders are to modern political campaigns. State Democrats criticized the meeting, saying it was Kasich “actively positioning to be the next Ohio darling of the special interests.”

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman had a bit of trouble giving a speech on the federal debt yesterday. Hecklers repeatedly interrupted Portman, a Republican, as he tried to speak. The final protesters were escorted out of the room as they chanted, “We’re going to grow, not slow, the economy.” Portman says his plan is to promote growth. But both Democrats and Republicans will raise taxes on the lower and middle classes, according to a calculator from The Washington Post. Tax hikes and spending cuts are typically bad ideas during a slow economy.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is facing the wrath of his tea party comrades. The far right wing of the Republican Party is apparently furious Boehner purged rebellious conservative legislators out of House committees and proposed $800 billion in new revenue in his “fiscal cliff” plan to President Barack Obama.

To help combat fatigue at space stations, NASA is changing a few light bulbs.

Does this dog really love or really hate baths? You decide:

by German Lopez 11.16.2012
Posted In: Budget, News, Economy, Anna Louise Inn at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City manager gets raise despite deficit, GE food regulations, Ohio unemployment drops

Cincinnati may have a deficit estimated to be between $34 million and $40 million, but that didn't stop City Council from voting 6-2 Thursday to approve a $23,000 raise and one-time $35,000 bonus for City Manager Milton Dohoney, the highest-paid city employee. The raise brings his salary up from $232,000 to $255,000. Council members Chris Seelbach and Chris Smitherman voted against the raise. P.G. Sittenfeld also opposed the raise and bonus, but he missed the vote because he was out of town for personal reasons. If City Council balances the budget for the next year and fires someone making $58,000 or less to help do so, the raise and one-time bonus could have meant one person’s job.

City Council also voted 8-0 to encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enforce mandatory labeling of all genetically engineered (GE) food. Alison Auciello, Ohio-based organizer for Food & Water Watch, praised the move in a statement: “Genetically engineered foods are potentially unsafe, and consumers should have the right to decide for themselves if they want to eat GE foods. It took regulation to get food processors to label ingredients and nutrition facts on labels, and now we’re calling for federal lawmakers to require the labeling of GE food.”

Ohio’s unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in October, down from 7.1 percent in September, according to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. The numbers were mostly positive with the amount of unemployed dropping by 10,000 and the amount of employed rising by 13,900. The civilian labor force also grew, although it was still below Oct. 2011 levels. Most gains were seen in service-providing industries, professional and business services and government. In comparison, the federal unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent in October, up from 7.8 percent in September.

The Anna Louise Inn won another zoning appeal yesterday. The victory upheld a conditional use permit for the Inn, which will allow Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Inn, to carry on with $13 million renovations. Western & Southern has vowed to appeal the ruling.

Income inequality in Ohio is wide and growing. A new study found the gap between the rich and poor is widening, with the lower and middle classes actually losing real income since the 1990s. 

After Thanksgiving, the Cincinnati Zoo team will be studying penguins off the coast of Chile.

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble is having no part in the good unemployment news. The company announced another round of job cuts as part of a large restructuring program. It’s unclear how the cuts will impact Cincinnati.

Hostess, maker of Twinkies, is going out of business. The company blamed a workers’ strike for the move, but Hostess has been having problems for a long time. The company has already filed for bankruptcy twice this decade.

The Ohio Board of Regents launched OhioMeansSuccess.org, a website meant to place students on a path to college and a successful career.

Russia can get pretty hardcore. While herding sheep, one grandmother fended off and killed a wolf with an axe.

The U.S. Navy is retiring its mine-sweeping dolphins and replacing them with robots.

by German Lopez 03.08.2013
capitol hill

Morning News and Stuff

Federal unemployment down, state joblessness up, Tower Place Mall renovations detailed

In February, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, from 7.9 percent in January, and the nation added 236,000 jobs. Many of the new jobs — about 48,000 — came from construction, while government employment saw a drop even before sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal spending cuts, began on March 1. Economists seem quite positive about the report.

In January, Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7 percent, from 6.7 percent in December, with the number of unemployed in the state rising to 399,000, from 385,000 the month before. Goods-producing and service-providing industries and local government saw a rise in employment, while jobs were lost in trade, transportation, utilities, financial activities, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, state government and federal government. In January, U.S. unemployment rose to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in December.

A new report outlined renovations for the city-owned Tower Place Mall, which is getting a makeover as part of Cincinnati’s parking plan. A lot of the retail space in the mall will be replaced to make room for parking that will be accessed through what is currently Pogue’s Garage, but two rings of retail space will remain, according to the report. The parking plan was approved by City Council Wednesday, but it was temporarily halted by a Hamilton County judge. The legal contest has now moved to federal court, and it’s set to get a hearing today.

Meet the mayoral candidates through CityBeat’s two extensive Q&As: Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley. Qualls spoke mostly about her support for immigration, the parking plan and streetcar, while Cranley discussed his opposition to the parking plan and streetcar and some of his ideas for Cincinnati.

A Hamilton County court ruled against the controversial traffic cameras in Elmwood Place, and the Ohio legislature is considering a statewide ban on the cameras. In his ruling, Judge Robert Ruehlman pointed out there were no signs making motorists aware of the cameras and the cameras are calibrated once a year by a for-profit operator. The judge added, “Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-card Monty. … It is a scam that motorists can’t win.” Bipartisan legislation was recently introduced to prohibit traffic cameras in Ohio.

JobsOhio, the state-funded nonprofit corporation, quietly got $5.3 million in state grants, even though the state legislature only appropriated $1 million for startup costs. JobsOhio says it needed the extra funds because legal challenges have held up liquor profits that were originally supposed to provide funding. In the past few days, State Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, has been pushing Republican Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio to release more details about the nonprofit corporation’s finances, but Kasich and JobsOhio have been pushing back.

Advocates for Ohio’s charter schools say Kasich’s budget amounts to a per-pupil cut, with funding dropping from $5,704 per pupil to $5,000 plus some targeted assistance that ranges from hundreds of dollars to nothing depending on the school. A previous CityBeat report on online schools found traditional public schools get about $3,193 per student — much less than the funding that apparently goes to charter schools.

Fountain Square will be getting a new television from Cincinnati-based LSI Industries with the help of Fifth-Third Bank and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The new video board will have better image quality and viewing angles, but it will also come with more screen space for sponsors.

Ohio’s casino revenues rose in January. That could be a good sign for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which opened Monday.

In light of recent discussion, Popular Science posted a Q&A on drones.

by German Lopez 04.10.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Taxes at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

Interactive Map: State Earned Income Tax Credit

Policy Matters Ohio releases county-by-county map detailing tax credit

As part of an effort supporting a state earned income tax credit (EITC), Policy Matters Ohio unveiled an interactive map today that shows the potential benefits to taxpayers in different counties.

For Hamilton County, about 19 percent of tax-filing households would qualify for the program. A 10-percent EITC would return about $15.6 million to households in Hamilton County, or about $225 on average for each qualifying filer. A 20-percent EITC would return about $31.2 million to Hamilton County, with each qualifying filer getting about $451 on average.

EITC is a tax credit that goes to working families, typically favoring low- and middle-income earners with children. It is already used by the federal government and several states to progressively reward employment.

CityBeat previously covered Policy Matter's efforts and how EITC could replace Gov. John Kasich's tax proposals, which would expand the sales tax and cut income taxes by 20 percent across the board, here.

Since then, Ohio House Republicans have rejected most of Kasich's tax proposals, instead downsizing the plan to a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut with no sales tax expansion.

Here is the interactive map, courtesy of Policy Matters:

by German Lopez 05.09.2013
Posted In: Budget, News at 10:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
milton dohoney

City Manager Unveils Budget Plan

Plan includes property tax hike, police and fire layoffs

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. released his operating budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 today. The plan makes lower-than-expected cuts to police, fire and other city departments to help balance the $35 million deficit in the operating budget for fiscal year 2014, but it would also effectively raise property taxes.

The City Charter allows the city to leverage 6.1 mills in property taxes, but City Council only approved the use of 5.7 mills for the operating budget in 2014, up from 4.6 mills in 2013. The budget plan would leverage the full 6.1 mills in 2015, effectively raising annual property taxes between 2014 and 2015 by $34 for every $100,000 in property value.

Water Works rates would also be reworked with a new pricing structure, which would add $3.11 to a Water Works customer’s bill each quarter.

The budget plan recommends laying off 66 employees in the Police Department, down from a previous estimate of 149. Fire personnel layoffs were also reduced to 71, down from 118. In other departments, 64 would be laid off.

The budget release estimates the fire layoffs would lead to an estimated 10 brownouts a day in which one truck in a firehouse would not run.

About $20.4 million of the fiscal year 2014 budget gap would be closed by cutting expenditures, while the rest would be closed with changes in revenue.

The budget release says the cuts are a result of the city’s parking plan falling through in light of a referendum effort and legal challenges: “While the Manager’s budget, with support from policy makers, has typically centered on strategies for growth to expand the local economy, this budget is constructed in light of the lack of revenue from the Parking Modernization and Lease, approved by the majority of City Council but held up in litigation.”

With the reduced layoffs, the city will save money by paying less in accrued leave and unemployment insurance. Previously, city officials estimated it would cost about $10 million to lay people off, but that number was reduced to $3.5 million in the revised budget plan.

The budget plan would also eliminate 17 vacant full-time positions in various departments and delay filling other vacant positions, which the budget release says would cause some strain: “These vacant position eliminations and prolonged position vacancies would further challenge departments that have already experienced significant funding and position reductions in prior budget years.”

The plan would also increase employees’ cost share for health care from 5 percent to 10 percent, reduce cost of living adjustments and force furloughs, which would span to executive and senior level management positions, including the city manager. The changes effectively add up to a 1.9 percent salary reduction, according to the budget release.

Other cuts in the budget were selected through the Priority-Driven Budgeting Process, which used surveys and public meetings to gauge what city programs are most important to local citizens. About $1.7 million would come from personnel and service reductions in the Health Department’s Community Health Environmental Inspections programs, the Law Department and the Department of Recreation. Another $1.5 million would be cut from funding to outside entities, including human services agencies, the Neighborhood Support Program, the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce.

Furthermore, subsidies for “Heritage Events,” such as the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade and St. Patrick’s Day Parade, would be eliminated, along with all arts funding.

The budget plan would also eliminate various other services, including the Bush Recreation Center in Walnut Hills, the Office of Environmental Quality’s Energy Management program and the Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol unit.

The budget plan includes a slew of new fees: a $75 fee for accepted Community Reinvestment Area residential tax abatement applications, a $25 late fee for late income tax filers, a $100 fee for fire plan reviews, an unspecified hazardous material cleanup fee, a 50-cent hike for admission into the Krohn Conservatory and an unspecified special events fee for city resources used for special events.

The budget plan would also use casino revenue: $9.1 million in 2013 and 2014 and $7.5 million in 2015.

The city was originally planning to lease its parking assets to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to help balance the operating budget and fund economic development projects (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), but the plan will be on the November ballot this year if court challenges are successful.

But if the city is successful in court, the budget release claims many of the cuts could be undone by using revenue from the parking plan.

The city manager’s office says the budget must be approved by City Council and the mayor by June 1 to provide 30 days for the budget’s implementation in time for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1.

Previously, the city could have used an emergency clause to eliminate a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but City Solicitor John Curp says the court challenges have effectively eliminated the power behind emergency clauses by making all laws, even laws passed with an emergency clause, susceptible to referendum within 30 days.

The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which is also facing a $17.4 million budget shortfall. The streetcar is funded through the capital budget, which can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of budgeting limits established in state law.

by German Lopez 11.15.2012
milton dohoney

Morning News and Stuff

Council approves raise amid deficit, GOP versus Planned Parenthood, puppy mills regulated

It’s official: Cincinnati’s budget proposal will arrive Nov. 26. The budget will seek to close a deficit estimated to be between $34 million and $40 million. Part of the budget plan was revealed when the city manager’s office suggested privatizing parking.

Despite the deficit the city is facing, City Council pushed forward a $21,000 raise and a one-time $35,000 bonus for City Manager Milton Dohoney in a 6-3 vote. It’s the first raise Dohoney is getting since 2007, but some are unhappy with the decision in light of the deficit, which could lead to job cuts. “The city manager is a good man, he is a hard worker, but to me this just feels out of touch with the economic reality that we are in right now,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld told Fox 19. “You don't give the highest paid employee in the city a raise, a significant raise, when you're facing a potentially huge budget deficit. Plus, you know, there's a very real possibility of layoffs.”

Ohio Republicans are pushing forward with HB 298, a bill that cuts funds to Planned Parenthood. The organization has become a popular target for Republicans because it provides abortions, but abortion services only make up 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood offers. The move is just one of many recent moves in the Republican agenda against abortion rights. They recently advocated renewing the heartbeat bill, and Gov. John Kasich recently appointed two anti-abortion advocates to government positions.

The Ohio House overwhelmingly approved a bill that will put large-scale puppy mills under more scrutiny with new state standards and yearly inspections. Animal rights activists have argued Ohio has become a haven for bad breeding practices due to lax laws and regulations. CityBeat previously covered the puppy mills issue and how it enables Ohio’s dog auctions.

But that’s not all the Ohio legislature got done. The Ohio House passed a bill that further regulates “pill mills” — doctors, pharmacies or clinics that distribute narcotics inappropriately or for non-medical reasons — and a bill that cracks down on “cyber stalking.” The Ohio Senate passed a bill that essentially lowers taxes for companies that increase payroll by 10 percent.

A new study highlighted the success of some Ohio schools, including Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School in Cincinnati. The research found the schools succeeded despite high poverty and tight budgets. The study indicated some key attributes of success: principals play pivotal roles, teachers and administrators are obviously engaged and invested, school leaders provide major incentives to teachers, data is used to measure progress and teachers and administrators do not see a lack of parent or community engagement as an insurmountable barrier to success. The report also made some recommendations: establish clear transitional protocols in case a principal leaves, engage teachers, hire teachers that are on-board with the school’s goals, leverage great reputations and celebrate success.

Hamilton County could issue securities to raise revenue. County commissioners are currently working on ways to close a $20 million deficit. The securities idea comes from Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the Board of Commissioners.

The investigation into U Square worker payments is ongoing. A City Council committee wants to see if the workers are being paid what they are supposed to be paid. Under Ohio law, workers on city-funded projects must get a prevailing wage, which is equivalent to the wage earned by a union worker on a similar project. But City Solicitor John Curp argues developers do not have to pay prevailing wages for parts of the project that aren’t getting public funding. City Manager Dohoney also argued that overzealous requirements could drive businesses out of Cincinnati.

Despite the pleas of more than 500,000, it does not look like Cincinnati-based Macy’s will dump Donald Trump. The billionaire has gained recognition as a big-name Republican and “birther” — someone who ignores all facts to call into question President Barack Obama’s country of origin. Brian Williams, news anchor at NBC News, described Trump aptly during election night: “Donald Trump, who has driven well past the last exit to relevance and peered into something closer to irresponsible here, is tweeting tonight.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is leading a new efforts to stop the use of synthetic drugs, including bath salts.

To fill a vacancy, a new interim chair has been named at the Ohio Board of Regents: Regent Vinny Gupta. He will be replacing James Tuschman, who successfully pushed a ban on smoking in Ohio’s college campuses. Gupta’s term will run through March 2013.

Meet the loneliest planet of them all. It’s an orphan that drifted away from its parent star.

by Andy Brownfield 11.19.2012
Posted In: Budget, County Commission, Government, News, Taxes at 03:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

County Commissioners Delay Budget Vote

Proposed 'austere' budget would cut $14.4M from 2012 levels

A vote on the 2013 Hamilton County budget is being delayed a week at the request of the sole Democrat on the Board of County Commissioners.

Commissioner Todd Portune asked Board President Greg Hartmann at a Monday staff meeting to push back the vote a week to address funding to juvenile courts and the county’s plan for future financial stability.

Hartmann, who earlier denied Portune’s request to issue securities to raise millions to balance the budget, agreed. He said it was important that all three commissioners agree on the budget.

Portune told reporters he wanted to see more funding for juvenile courts. The proposed budget would cut about $3 million from the juvenile court’s 2012 appropriation. 

He said he also wants to see specific plans on how and where the county will invest in economic development. He and Hartmann disagree about whether that kind of planning belongs in a budget.

Hartmann had the proposal developed after commissioners rejected three plans from County Administrator Christian Sigman, two of which would have raised taxes. The $192 million budget under consideration cuts about $14 million from the 2012 appropriation levels without raising taxes.

The proposed budget makes a number of what Hartman calls “modest cuts” in almost every county department.

All three commissioners have stated that public safety funding is a priority. The Sheriff’s Department would see a small reduction of $27,033, bringing its budget to almost $57.5 million.

However, the department would also face an additional $4.3 million in expenses next year, giving incoming Sheriff Jim Neil an effectively reduced budget.

The Emergency Management Agency would get a nearly 40 percent increase in the proposed budget, up to $400,000.

The Board of Elections would see its budget slashed 36.2 percent to $6.9 million. However, its expenses would also be lower in 2013 because there is no presidential election as there was in 2012.

The proposed budget would bring the Department of Job and Family Services’ appropriation to $832,900 — a reduction of $10,360. However, that funding level is dictated by the State of Ohio and not the county.

The Hamilton County Prosecutor would also see a small increase of $37,597 intended to hold level its funding from 2012, as the department went over-budget. The prosecutor has the ability to sue the county over its budget appropriation, so the department typically maintains level funding.

by German Lopez 05.16.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Marijuana, Fracking at 06:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Medical marijuana may be on ballot, mayor reduces layoffs, budget hearing tonight

The Ohio Rights Group could be asking voters to legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp statewide in 2013 or 2014. The Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati says drug approval should be up to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but that may not matter because polls so far shows medical marijuana getting widespread approval from Ohio voters. The Ohio Rights Group argues its amendment would help Ohioans by opening up better health treatments and boosting the economy. Whether that will be enough to land the issue on the ballot remains to be seen.

Mayor Mark Mallory revised the city manager’s budget plan to carry out less layoffs but more cuts to outside spending and recreation centers. Mallory's changes will restore 18 firefighter positions, 17 police positions, three inspector positions at the Health Department and two positions at the Law Department, reducing the total layoffs to 161, with 49 of those being police positions and 53 being firefighter positions. But it will come with more cuts to third-party agencies, including the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, the Center for Closing the Health Gap and Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, and two closed recreation centers. The plan will also use about $500,000 in recently discovered revenue. Mallory said the layoffs and cuts have to be made in part because of multiple outside factors, including reduced state funding and courts holding up the city's parking plan.

The first hearing on the city's fiscal year 2014 budget proposals will be tonight at the Duke Energy Convention Center at 6:30 p.m. The public will be asked to give feedback on the budget plan put forward by the city manager and mayor, which would lay off 161 city employees, including cops and firefighters, to help balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit.

CityBeat editorial: "Cincinnati's 1 Percent."

The Ohio Department of Transportation has raised its estimated price for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project by about $10 million to $30 million after meetings with business owners in Cincinnati's uptown area. It's so far unclear how the project's costs will be divided between the city, state and federal governments. Originally, Cincinnati was looking to pay for its share of the project through its plan to lease the city's parking assets, but that plan is being held up in court.

City Council approved a resolution yesterday supporting a statewide ban on injection wells used to dispose wastewater during the hydraulic fracturing — "fracking" — process, a drilling process that injects millions of gallons of water underground to unlock natural gas and oil reserves. The injection wells are a vital part of a fracking boom that has helped revitalize economies in Ohio and other states and could help combat climate change, but environmentalists and health advocates are concerned about the unintended consequences the wells could have on nearby water sources ("Boom, Bust or Both?" in issue of June 6, 2012).

The Ohio House approved changes to the state's third grade reading requirement that will relax standards teachers must meet to provide reading instruction and tutoring services for young students. The current law requires teachers to have taught reading for at least three years, but the bill approved by the Ohio House would eliminate that requirement.

Mayoral candidate John Cranley says choosing Cincinnati's next police chief should wait until the next mayor is elected in November.

The Hamilton County Board of Elections sent two more voter fraud cases to the prosecutor, but the question remains whether the dozens of people who filed provisional ballots and absentee ballots are actually in the wrong — an issue that will be ultimately decided by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Top public safety issues are urging schools not to arm teachers to protect students from gun violence. CityBeat previously found that arming teachers is not supported by research.

Ohioans, including CityBeat’s most dazzling staff member, apparently enjoy swearing.

Before the IRS harassed tea party groups, it harassed gay rights groups.

No further explanation necessary: "Police: Man used grenade to rob Hamilton bank."

Scientists have created the first cloned human embryo.

A new laser scanner can detect someone watching you from a kilometer away.