CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Hamilton County commissioners are asking for your input tonight... as they consider cutting costs and jobs to come up with a balanced budget.
On Wednesday, the commission hosted a public meeting where residents could ask questions and make suggestions on how to handle the budget crisis.
More than 150 people came to that public meeting at the Sharonville Convention Center. A lot of comments focused on the cuts to the sheriff's department, but everyone said they know this is a serious situation across the board.
The first of three public hearings began with fireworks as taxpayers weighed in on Hamilton County's proposed layoffs, service reductions and recommended 2009 budget, which is $31 million in the hole.
"It's really serious, and this is first exposure we have of the consequences of the economy and Wall Street problems, so it serious it has me worried," said Tom Gerity, a Hamilton County resident.
Commissioners blame the huge shortfall on an economic downturn, and less federal and state funding.
"In every one of those areas the county is facing significant reductions in revenues from 2008 to 2009 and the reductions in 2009 don't look good as well," said Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune.
Commissioners say at this point they're committed not to raise taxes, so that means the hundreds of layoffs are likely. Speakers say that move will cripple the sheriff's department, who will take one of the largest hits.
"I think that its a crisis," said resident Peggy Burns. "I think they have to find a new way. There are lots of places that they cut besides the police department."
"Do the right thing for our citizens and protect them from the criminals that want to harm them," Gerity told the commissioners. "Your recommendation truly puts our community at risk."
But what services should be cut?
"The basic bottom line is the cuts have to be proportional and even for everybody," said resident Amos Robinson.