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.”
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.
The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners yesterday voted to keep senior and mental health levies flat. As a result, senior and mental health services will lose funding. Commissioner Todd Portune, the Board’s sole Democrat, offered an alternative measure that would have raised funding to levels providers requested, before voting with the two Republicans. Portune’s measure would have increased property taxes by $5 for every $100,000 of property worth.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released a new report detailing human trafficking in Ohio. The report found one-third of trafficking victims got involved in trafficking as minors. In all of Ohio, law enforcement officials topped the list of buyers for human trafficking. In Cincinnati, the most common buyers were drug dealers, factory workers and truckers. Forty percent of trafficking victims in Cincinnati reported being raped.
At the commissioners meeting Wednesday, a Jehova’s Witnesses group clashed with Harrison Township over land. The religious group wants to build a hall that they say will attract Jehova’s Witnesses to the area and bring in tax revenue, but Harrison Township is worried the building will cause too much disruption. The board will reach a decision in a few weeks, Commissioner Greg Hartmann said.U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised Cincinnati Children’s accomplishments during a visit to a local medical center Wednesday. She also said the medical progress in Cincinnati “can now be mirrored across the country.”
The Ohio State Bar Association has declared opposition to the Voters First redistricting amendment. The association says it has “deep concerns” over getting the judicial system involved in the redrawing process.Local political group COAST has been misinforming its followers about the Blue Ash Airport deal. The misinformation continues COAST’s campaign to stop anything streetcar-related.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is among the top choices for presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s vice presidential list, but a new analysis from the New York Times shows Portman might not benefit Romney much. Apparently, Ohio voters either don’t know Portman well enough or feel completely apathetic about him.Ohio’s mortgage delinquency rates are falling. The rate fell from 4.73 percent to 4.54 percent. However, the average mortgage debt for individual borrowers went up in the second largest jump in the country. The average Ohio mortgage debt holder now owes $131,701, up from $126,503.
The number of swine flu cases in Butler County is still going up.Ohio school levies apparently struggled in the special Aug. 7 election.
The U.S. trade deficit is at its lowest in 18 months.
Apparently, the Olympic Village is a giant orgy.A new study is linking eyes to sexual orientation.
The dispute stems from a plot of land that, through some legal wrangling and a Joint Economic Development Agreement, Harrison Township officials say can only be used for industrial purposes that create jobs.
The Southwest Ohio Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses wants to build a massive assembly hall that they say would be a draw to the 28,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the region and create jobs in surrounding service sector businesses.
The Hamilton County Rural Zoning Commission denied permission to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, citing fear over the impact to local businesses and traffic, causing the religious group to appeal the decision to the Board of County Commissioners.
Board President Greg Hartmann said commissioners would set a date in the coming weeks to arrive at a decision.
Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes lawyer Chris Finney represented the Witnesses before the board.
Finney argued that the Zoning Commission was wrong to deny permission to build the assembly hall. He pointed to the positive economic impact such halls have had in other states and brought witnesses to testify about the potential impact it could have on Cincinnati.
According to a slide show presented before the board, the hall could result in $1.19 million in annual tax revenue and create 421 jobs in the service industry surrounding the site.
Being a religious institution, the hall would be tax-exempt and would be staffed by volunteers.
Harrison Township officials argued that the area was created under a special agreement that requires industrial use and that any businesses located there create jobs and enhance economic development.
Mayor Joel McGuire said the township had offered up other locations for the assembly hall, but the Witnesses were fixated on the one.
“That’s why we’re in the all-or-nothing situation we’re in because they insist on this particular spot as opposed to the many other locations where there’d be no problems at all,” McGuire said.
Faced with the choice of raising property taxes or funding senior and mental health services at their current levels, the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners voted on Wednesday to approve a ballot measure that would effectively cut tens of millions of dollars from those services if passed by voters.
“It seems wrongheaded for us to ask citizens to pay more in taxes when their homes are worth less, when costs have gone up in their households and when in many cases their paychecks are down,” said Board President Greg Hartmann. “So we need to hold the line on those property taxes.”
The tax rate would be held at the levels passed by voters in 2008, which would be an effective reduction due to declining property values. If Hamilton County voters approve the levies in November, senior services would see a $7 million reduction in funding over the next five years — down to $97 million from $104 million — while funding for mental health services would fall $17 million from $187 million to $170 million, Hartmann said.
The money funds services such as meals on wheels, in-home care for seniors, counseling and drug and alcohol addiction and treatment services.
The board’s sole Democrat — Commissioner Todd Portune — made the symbolic gesture of submitting an alternate proposal which would have funded services at the levels providers had requested, but it failed without support from either of the board’s two Republican members.
Portune’s resolution would have increased property taxes by $5 for every $100,000 the property was worth. He said voters should be given the option to shoulder the additional tax burden. He later voted in favor of Hartmann’s resolution, saying the worst thing that could happen would be for voters to approve no levy.
Commissioners also approved a resolution to formally review all healthcare services provided by the county in hopes of saving money by eliminating any that were duplicated at the federal level under the healthcare overhaul.
Hartmann said he didn’t come to the decision to keep the levies at the current rate lightly and pledged to work with the recipients to manage the reduction.
Many of those providers appeared at three public hearings held in the last month and with near unanimity asked commissioners to approve the increased rates — which would have kept funding even by countering the money lost from decreased property values.
Patrick Tribbe, president and CEO of the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, didn’t outline specific cuts the agency would undertake, but told reporters after the commissioners’ vote that he would spend the next six months planning for the start of the next fiscal year, when the cuts would take effect.
The Tax Levy Review Committee had recommended that the property tax rate remain flat instead of increasing. It suggested that service providers reduce their administrative costs and find areas to increase efficiency.
Many of the providers who spoke at the public hearings said they had already cut administrative costs about as deeply as they could and had very little room for to cut further.
County Commissioner Todd Portune's idea to borrow more money and extend a half-cent sales tax in order to keep up with stadium costs has been shot down by a Bengals lawyer who used 15 bullet points to demonstrate that Portune's plan “proposes to breach one or both leases.”
Duke Energy is asking state regulators if it can bump customers' rates up again. Duke says the increases are to pay for infrastructure investments. The change would increase customer costs of electric service by $86 million and for natural gas by $44 million. A federal appeals court on Monday reinstated an antitrust lawsuit against Duke Energy that accuses the company of paying kick-backs to corporations opposing a 2004 rate increase.
A rally for “religious freedom” will take place on Fountain Square today in response to federal health care legislation requiring women to have abortions employers to provide insurance that covers birth control. The law includes a religious exemption, which bishops have said isn't enough.
A group pushing to ban dog auctions in Ohio has halted its effort to put the issue on the November ballot due to lack of funding and time. CityBeat in February reported the group's efforts to ban the sale of dogs through auctions or raffles, as well as all trafficking in dogs from out-of-state auctions.
New York City officials, including
Brooklyn Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke, are arguing that the city's
“Stop and Frisk” policy is racist. The policy allows police to
stop an individual and pat him or her down for contraband if they
suspect illegal activity. From USA Today:
Clarke says the program, known as "Stop, Question and Frisk" or "Stop and Frisk," amounts to racial profiling. It is based on a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that police could stop people on the basis of "reasonable suspicion."
Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin approved class-action status for a lawsuit that alleges the practice subjects people to race-based illegal searches.
President Obama's health care law helped
6.6 million young adults stay on their parents' plans during the
first year and a half.
Rick Santorum has formed a new conservative organization aiming to recruit 1 million supporters to help get Barack Obama out of the While House. No word on how Santorum's “Patriot Voices” group will differ from the tea party patriots.
NASA says it has spotted the universe's first objects.
Black members of the Netherlands soccer team were subjected to
racist chants at their Euro 2012 practice facility in Krakow, Poland.
The team says fans were making monkey chants at the players.
LeBron James scored 45 points to lead the Miami Heat over the Boston Celtics last night, forcing a deciding Game 7 for the Eastern Conference championship. The Oklahoma Thunder await in the NBA Finals.
A federal appeals court yesterday reinstated an antitrust lawsuit against Duke Energy. The lawsuit accuses Duke of paying kickbacks to local companies in order to gain support for a 2004 electric rate increase. The lawsuit alleges that Duke appeased the more powerful opposing companies by including rebate deals for them. The suit is seeking unspecified damages and seeks to represent all Ohioans affected by the rate increase.
Todd Portune is continuing his quest to become the East Side's county's property tax rebate savior, yesterday offering a new idea to bail out the stadium fund: extend the half cent sales tax past 2032. The revenue created by extending the sales tax, which has no sunset clause, would repay loans the county could use to pay for maintenance and projects at the stadiums now. Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel is open to “any ideas,” though Democratic Commissioner Greg Hartmann says otherwise:
“Todd, here we go again,” snapped Commissioner Greg Hartmann. “Walking away from these leases is just fantasyland.
“How many times are we going to do this?” he asked.
Rob Portman will test out his GOP rallying cries at the Faith & Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C. next week.
Bill Clinton says a Mitt Romney presidency would be “calamitous” for the U.S.
The Senate will vote on a gender pay equity bill today.
China and Russia say they'll help the UN more going forward, though they've been supporting Syria more than anyone really wants them to.
Here's an explanation of the Transit of Venus, for those who don't get it yet.
Nintendo has revamped its Wii to try to lure gamers from free Internet games they play on iPads.
A new PC virus can infect computers by imitating a Windows update.