Brother, Can You Spare Some Ideas?

County officials turn to citizens for input

Aug 4, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Hamilton County officials are asking residents for help in determining what course of action to take to solve some of the most severe budget issues the county has ever faced.

Ideas about what residents expect from county government and how they would solve funding dilemmas are being solicited through the 2011 Hamilton County Citizens Survey. The survey, which will be available July 8 through Aug. 8, focuses on a variety of issues that surround next year's county budget.

Some of the issues included are the stadium funding revenue shortfall, the 911 call center consolidation and drug offender incarceration policies.

“This is a chance to get citizens' feedback on key issues facing the county in the years ahead,” says John Bruggen, budget supervisor for Hamilton County. “We have a lot of tough issues ahead of us and it will be good for the administration to see where the public stands.”

The survey, which takes about 10 minutes to complete, explains the issues surrounding each question and gives participants a variety of answers to choose from.

“There are 12 key questions asked and we provide background on each topic.” Bruggen says. “We also give the participants three to four positions to chose from, so no question is one-sided.”

Results of the survey will help guide administrators gauge and assist them in determining what course of action they should take.

“We are elected to make decisions on behalf of the public with their tax dollars,” says Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper. “So, we will use this information to adhere to what the public wants as much as possible.”

Pepper adds, however, they will not be able to please everyone and some of the inquiries might cause controversy.

“Some of the questions are hot topics in the community and they might raise a few eyebrows,” Pepper says. “Some of the challenges we face that are discussed in this survey have no easy answer and that will not please everyone.”

One of the controversial issues revolves around paying for the construction debt and operations of Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park.

The fund that supports the facilities is facing a considerable deficit as a result of several years of poor sales tax performance. As a result, Hamilton County will be forced to find money to bridge the gap. One of the questions in the survey asks residents if the county should raise the sales tax to cover this deficit, reduce the property tax rebate or find a different solution to this issue.

Another controversial issue involves the incarceration of low-level drug offenders.

Because of jail overcrowding and limited resources, one question asks residents if drug offenders should be incarcerated, only incarcerated if they have caused physical harm to someone or treated for substance abuse issues and not incarcerated.

Administrators hope the information in the survey will educate the public on issues Hamilton County leaders face everyday.

“Residents may have heard of some of these topics, but they might not know about them in this level of depth,” Bruggen says. “We hope to not only get feedback from this survey but to also educate the public on these tough issues our leaders are dealing with.”

More than 2,000 citizens participated in the survey last year and the county hopes for a repeat of that turnout.

“Last year we had a impressive number of people who took the survey,” Pepper says. “If we can get the same number of participants this year, we will be very happy.”

Hamilton County administrators say decisions on these issues will have to be made soon and citizen’s opinions could have a huge impact.

“Some of these decisions will have to be made by the end of 2010,” Bruggen says. “The deficit is at a certain level for a few years then, in 2013, it blooms up a bit. “

The Hamilton County Administration Office plans to release the survey results in mid-August, along with a revised 2011 budget forecast.

“This an amazing opportunity to have your voice heard,” Pepper says. “This is a important way to voice your concerns and give your leaders advice. So, if you want to weigh in on your future, then this is a great way to do it.”

For more information or to participate in the 2011 Hamilton County Citizens Survey go to