Thursday, December 11, 2008

County Budget, Part Deux

Each of the three HamCo Commissioners has offered his own adjustments to Administrator Pat Thompson's budget proposal. View them online: Pat DeWine, David Pepper, and Todd Portune. Of course, we here at the Cincinnati Blog have read the revised budgets so you don't have to. Here's a summary.

As you'll recall, the most controversial feature of Thompson's proposal is a $12.4 million reduction to the Sheriff's budget, which could require closing Queensgate and ending county-subsidized patrols in Green, Anderson, and Colerain townships. Commissioners are looking for ways to restore that money. The chart below indicates how each commissioner either reduces expenditures (shown by a minus) in other departments or increases revenues (shown by a plus):

Table

The big difference on furloughs is because DeWine and Pepper propose furloughing only Commissioners' staff, while Portune wants to do it county-wide (the difference between DeWine and Pepper is that the former proposes a five-day furlough, the latter ten days). The two Dems think money can be raised by selling advertising space on County websites (see the Cook County Assessor's website for an example).

Apparently, the HamCo Treasurer has recently revised its revenue forecast for 2009 upwards by about a half-million dollars. The Dems want to use this estimate, while DeWine is apparently unconvinced.

DeWine offers a fairly commonsense approach to how the HCSO budget cuts should be admininstered: let Si Leis handle it. He is not just the "expert" in this field, he's an elected department chief. DeWine also proposes charging ALL of the townships for patrols, not just the three largest.

Portune proposes a bunch of revenue additions (not in the chart) that would require changes to state law. Frankly, they seem like more of a wish list than a budget proposal. I'm not sure what the "Medical Expense Reduction Plan" is, but it's probably Portunese for "screw county employees on health benefits for the third consecutive year." I'd love to see a more detailed explanation of how he gets to over a million and a half dollars in savings in utilities and supplies.

None of them get to 12 million dollars between additional cuts and new revenue. (All of the plans are probably more akin to rearranging the deck chairs than steering the Titanic to a new course.) But each would minimize the impact of cuts on public safety. DeWine's proposal would keep Queensgate open through March. Pepper and Portune want to make sure the regional HazMat unit gets $100,000 stripped away by Thompson, but both neither are able to save Queensgate. Portune "an acceptable level" of patrols in the townships.

I suspect some combination of Pepper's and DeWine's budget will be what we see enacted. Many of DeWine's cuts seem wise in the current atmosphere, but both DeWine and Pepper propose some fairly speculative revenue enhancers (for DeWine, it's the "pay-to-stay" inmate program; for Pepper, it's the advertising plan). DeWine is "lame duck" with little to lose (his upcoming term on the Common Pleas court is six years), so he may be able to lead the BOCC through some politically unpopular budget cuts that the Dems themselves could not initiate (sort of an "only Nixon could go to China" thing).

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