Hamilton County Sheriff Will Lay Off 10 Deputies Due to Budget Shortfall

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil yesterday announced that he must reduce the number of sheriffs deputies to make up for a $5.5 million cut to the office's budget.

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The Hamilton County Justice Center - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
The Hamilton County Justice Center

Starting next month, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office will have 10 fewer deputies, Sheriff Jim Neil announced yesterday.

Those cuts come as part of a larger effort to reduce the number of deputies the county employs down to 800. The sheriff's office had 930 deputies in July, but has since cut down to 896 via a hiring freeze.

Neil said the layoffs were unavoidable after Hamilton County Commissioners voted on cuts across county offices to address a $29 million shortfall in the county's $239 million annual budget. The sheriff's office lost $5.5 million from its more than $70 million budget due to the cuts.

Three of the deputies laid off will be in court services, four from enforcement and another three from administration. Those positions will be filled by senior deputies who are being moved from the county's electronic monitoring program, which the probation department will take over. They're the first layoffs the office has seen in over a decade since the 2008 closure of the Queensgate jail.

There are a number of factors behind the county's budget shortfall, including the federal elimination of a tax on Medicaid care. The county won't be able to collect roughly $6 million this year due to that change. The county is also smarting from the reduction in state funding to local governments. Hamilton County lost $66 million in revenues from Ohio's Local Government Fund and estate taxes between 2011 and last year, Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes said last year.

Overall, various cuts to state funding cost the county as much as $32 million a year, Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus has said.

Hamilton County Commissioners voted to increase the county’s sales tax earlier this year before backing off due to pressure from anti-tax conservatives.

Driehaus has tied the shortfall to reductions in state and federal funding.

"The federal government and the state government, in my view, have shifted the tax burden to local communities," she said last year.

Hamilton County produces more tax revenue for the state than average. While the county’s 810,000 residents account for about 7 percent of the state’s 11 million people, the county’s sales taxes accounted for more than 8 percent of Ohio’s overall sales tax receipts in 2015. It contributes even more to the state’s income tax collections — about 10 percent of the state’s take annually.

But the budget woes aren't entirely from the state cuts. More than $100 million in county sales taxes, a main source of revenue, have been dedicated to Cincinnati's two riverfront stadiums and renovations at Union Terminal. And Neil has routinely overspent his budget, spending almost $5 million more than he was allocated last year.

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