State of the County focuses on jobs, economic development for Hamilton Co.

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann presented the State of the County address to the Cincinnati Rotary Club Thursday.

The presentation focused on jobs, economic development, and the county's vision for the community's future.

According to Hartmann, commissioners' focus will be on prioritizing and investing in job creation partners, continuing fiscal restraint, and making strides in technology and innovation.

Hartmann says the county budget has been cut by twenty six percent since 2008. Four years ago, the county's budget was $271.6 million while in 2012 that number shrank to 201.7 million. Next year the budget is expected to shrink again to $192 million which would be a 30 percent drop since 2008.

To make ends meet, Hartmann says the county has had to cut fourteen hundred jobs since 2008, consolidate departments and freeze county wide pay raises.

Despite the challenges, Hartmann argues the state of the county is 'strong'.

Following the address, FOX19 talked one-on-one with Hartmann asking tough questions about the difficult issues facing the county.

You called the state of the county 'strong', some might argue that of course you say that at an event like this. What evidence do you have to back that up?

Well, we've made tough decisions, we've cut almost a third out of our general fund budget, but at the same time we're increasing our investment in jobs. We are stronger. Our government is smarter now are we're focusing on the right priorities, the basics: public safety and investing in jobs.

In 2013, the early budget projection shows another big chuck out of the budget. Is there any more fat to cut or are we now looking at bone?

[It's] a challenge. That's going to take us to 80 million dollars less than we were five years ago…. We've got to reexamine how we deliver services to the public within our means.

How do you do that? If there's no fat where do you go from there?

Having cooperation with all the other elected officials, the sheriff's department. There's a great collaborative approach. We've all got to be in this together, we've still got to deliver the most important basic services but we also have to make the numbers work.

The stadium fund continues to be an issue and so what evidence do we have there's a handle on that moving forward?

We're dealing with it year to year. The stadium fund model never lived up to the expectations with which it was funded, but we don't have a choice but to be balanced on it and we'll make that happen.

Does it look like the teams are any more willing to come to table at this point?

The teams are at the table and we're looking at a five year capital expenditure commitment by them. They're currently, both Bengals and Reds, giving more than they have to give under the current leases with the county so that's progress.

What do you say to folks in places like Harrison Township, Crosby, Whitewater that say their safety is going to be compromised because of the budget cuts you made in patrols?

We understand the position they're in. They're not going to go without sheriff's patrols. I'll say that 100 percent for sure.

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