For the sixth year in a row, Hamilton County’s budget will be getting some cuts. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners today approved $14.4 million in across-the-board cuts in a 2-1 vote, with Democrat Todd Portune voting no and Republicans Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel voting yes.
The budget’s cuts will affect every county department, but they will not raise taxes. The plan will likely result in layoffs, according to the county budget office. The sheriff’s office is the least affected by cuts.
With a few revisions and tweaks, the plan is basically what Board President Hartmann originally proposed. Previously, Hartmann touted the budget plan by praising its “austerity” — a word that has lost popularity in Europe as budget cuts and tax hikes have thrown the continent into a double-dip recession.
Portune suggested an alternative plan that made fewer cuts and instead borrowed money against delinquent taxes.
By law, the county is required to balance its budget.
"It would be the height of irresponsibly to commit funds they knew were not there," Rhodes said. "I've long criticized various governments for living in dream world.
"This takes it to a whole new level," Rhodes said.
Cincinnati and Hamilton County today announced a compromise that will end the county's funding hold on sewer projects, allowing the projects to move forward. As a condition, the city will have to rework and repeal the controversial laws that incited county commissioners into approving the hold in the first place.
As part of the deal, Commissioner Chris Monzel will ask the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners to immediately repeal a hold on Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects.
On the city's side, Councilman Chris Seelbach will ask City Council to immediately repeal so-called "local hire" and "local preference" rules, which require a certain percentage of contractors' workforce be local residents.
The city, county and their partners will then work on changing the city's responsible bidder ordinance before new rules are officially implemented on Aug. 1.
In May, City Council modified the responsible bidder ordinance originally passed in June 2012. The changes were supposed to trigger in August, but the compromise may alter those changes altogether.
Under the current language, the ordinance forces MSD contractors to establish specifically accredited apprenticeship programs and put money — based on labor costs — toward a pre-apprenticeship fund.
The city argued the programs will help create local jobs and train local workers, but the county criticized the rules for supposedly favoring unions and imposing extra costs on MSD projects.
Meanwhile, MSD is facing pressure from the federal government to comply with a mandate to retrofit and replace Cincinnati's sewers. MSD estimates the project will cost $3.2 billion over 15 to 20 years, making it one of the largest infrastructure projects in Cincinnati's history.
But the project was effectively halted by the county commissioners' funding hold, which forced the city and county to hastily work out a compromise.
CityBeat covered the county-city conflict in further detail here.
Today is the last day to register to vote, and in-person early voting is underway. Register to vote and vote at your nearest board of election, which can be located here.
Hamilton County commissioners agree on not raising the sales tax. That effectively rules out two of three plans laid out by the county administrator. The one plan left would not cut public safety, but it would make cuts to the courts, criminal justice system, administrative departments, commissioner departments and the board of elections.It seems other news outlets are now scrutinizing online schools. A Reuters report pointed out state officials — including some in Ohio — are not happy with results from e-schools. Even Barbara Dreyer, CEO of the e-school company Connections Academy, told Reuters she’s disappointed with performance at e-schools. A CityBeat look into e-schools in August found similarly disappointing results.
Ohio Democrats are asking federal and state officials for
an investigation into Murray Energy, the Ohio-based coal company that
has been accused of coercing employees into contributing to Republican
political campaigns. In the statement calling for action, Ohio
Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said, “Thanks to this report,
now we know why coal workers and miners have lent themselves to the
rallies, ads, and political contributions. They’ve been afraid.”
Councilman Chris Seelbach is following up on information obtained during public safety meetings. The most consistent concerns Seelbach heard were worries about loitering and young people breaking curfew.
The state auditor says the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) could save $430,000 a year if it moved its student information database in-house. Current law prohibits ODE from having access to the data for privacy reasons, but State Auditor Dave Yost says it’s unnecessary and “wastes time and money.”
It seems Duke Energy is quickly integrating into its recent merger with Progress Energy. The company's information technology, nuclear and energy-supply departments are fully staffed and functional.
The Cincinnati Art Museum is renovating and restoring the Art Academy on the building’s west side.
It might not feel like it sometimes, but parking in Cincinnati is still pretty cheap.
Scientific research is increasingly pointing to lead as an explanation for people’s crazy grandparents. Research indicates even small programs cleaning up lead contamination can have massive economic and education returns.
Kings Island is selling off pieces of the Son of Beast. The troubled roller coaster was torn down after years of being shut down.
The “Jeopardy!” Ohio Online Test is today. If you’re ever on the show, give a shout-out to CityBeat.
Mayor Mark Mallory was not happy with Hamilton County Commission President Greg Hartmann’s Tuesday letter criticizing him for failing to follow through with a city-county shared services plan. Mallory fired back today in his own letter, criticizing Hartmann for going to the media first and explaining why he no longer supports the City County Shared Services Committee.
“We have had a strong working relationship since you have become Commission President,” Mallory wrote. “So, I was surprised and disappointed that you sent the letter to the media instead of sharing your concerns with me directly; after all, you have my cell phone number.”
Mallory went on to point out that Hartmann is the fourth commission president he has worked with, and the previous three “never would have handled City/County relations in such a confrontational manner.”
The mayor also clarified why he no longer supports the City County Shared Services Committee, which was meant to consolidate county and city services to end redundancies and improve efficiency and competitiveness.
“As the scope of the proposed committee’s work was developed, it became clear to me that not only were we already collaborating at a high level, but that several new collaborations proposed by the City had met resistance from the County,” Mallory wrote. “I began to question the need for a committee to conduct a $400,000 study of future collaboration if there were already potential new collaborations sitting on the shelf.”
Mallory also said he “will never give away the ability of the citizens of Cincinnati to control crucial City functions.” He cited the examples of prosecutors and health clinics, which Mallory implied could have been given off to the county if the committee pushed through its recommendations.
The mayor also pointed out that even if the city and county approved the committee and its recommendations, Hamilton County would still have serious budget problems: “You and I both know that the recommendations of the Shared Services Committee would never have resulted in close to enough savings to close the County’s budget deficit, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.” In other words, stop shifting the blame.
The rest of Mallory’s letter went on to point out Cincinnati and Hamilton County collaborate on a regular basis to “improve services, create efficiencies, and save money.” The mayor pointed to many programs for examples of the city and county working together: the Banks development, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Metropolitan Sewer District, emergency operations, the Port Authority, a $1.9 million city-county contract that has the county manage Cincinnati’s Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program Consortium.
Mallory also claimed there have been cases in which the county declined to collaborate with the city, citing the Indigent Care Levy. The county’s consultant recommended Hamilton County give some of that levy to provide county residents access to primary care at the City Health Center System, but the county declined the potential partnership.
Mallory then said he was willing to work on collaboration with purchasing, fire hydrant maintenance and economic development — three areas Hartmann cited in his own letter to Mallory.
The letter finished with a call to end the politics of the back-and-forth: “I feel very strongly that it is time to take the politics out and leave the matter to the public sector professionals. The City Manager is ready to meet with the County Administrator to discuss any proposed partnership that would improve the lives of our citizens by improving service, increasing efficiency, or saving money.”
In his letter, Hartmann criticized Mallory for not keeping his promise to back the city-county committee, citing a previous letter from Mallory to the Ohio Department of Development that promised $100,000 for the new committee.