Sheriff: Budget cuts would put nearly 500 prisoners in streets

Hamilton County budget raises questions about public safety

HAMILTON COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - Hamilton County Commissioners say they have to trim millions from the 2015 alternative county budget, including proposed funding cuts to the Sheriff's Office.

The controversial cuts could force the elimination of as many as 100 jobs and close two floors of the jail, according to Sheriff Jim Neil. An official memo states that would mean the release of all minimum and medium security inmates, which is approximately 460 men.

"It would be a negative impact because you would have offenders that should be locked up for some very serious crimes that are out," Neil said. The proposed cuts would reduce the Sheriff's Office budget from the existing $64 million to $61 million.

County wide, as many as 160 jobs could be cut and there would not be any cost of living or merit based pay increases. Among other impacts could be less supervision of felons on probation, limited funds for economic development, longer wait times for trials in some courts, and no money for technology upgrades to the communications center.

Since 2008, more than $70 million has been trimmed county wide with the lack of sales tax forcing drastic action during tough economic times, according to Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel.

"We actually did have to close one of the jails that we had in Queensgate and we did actually have to reduce our workforce by up to 1,700 individuals so we made a lot of hard choices," said Monzel.

Meanwhile Commissioner Todd Portune is proposing a quarter-percent hike in the county sales tax for five years as a way to avoid cuts in services while lowering property taxes.

A final vote is planned for Nov. 24.

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