Monday, October 22, 2001

Campbell Co. counts success

Financial situation has been improved

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Campbell County was a million bucks in the hole and looking to stabilize its ship when the current Judge-executive took office.

        Steve Pendery had two challenges after taking over as Campbell County Judge-executive almost three years ago: Get the county's financial house in order, and revise the budgeting procedures so the county knows what it is dealing with financially.

        The former Fort Thomas mayor said last week that he believes the county has met those challenges and is moving forward with a countywide tax collection system and upgrades to parks and recreation.

        “We know what we are dealing with, but that doesn't mean we have money to blow,” Mr. Pendery said, putting forth a “state of the county” review. “We have pent-up demand for maintainance in several areas, for police cruisers and other equipment.” When Mr. Pendery, a Republican, took office along with incumbent Democratic county commissioners Dave Otto, Bill Verst and Roland Vories, he discovered that the county was in a financial bind with a budget that might only be balanced by pulling $1 million out of the reserve fund.

        Spending reductions and cutbacks eased the budget crunch, along with a more aggressive tax collection process. “I think the results speak for themselves. Things are going well in the county,” aid Commissioner Bill Verst.

        “I know a lot of people were concerned about the possibility of a split court because (Mr. Pendery) was a Republican, but that has not been the case.”

        Commissioner Dave Otto said he also was pleased with how the fiscal court members have collected extra revenue for the county through upgrades in license fees and tax collection programs.

        “The atmosphere in Campbell County is that the county is very stable, the officials are business-like in their approach,” he said.

        One of the first issues the fiscal court faced in 1999 was to find a new county coordinator/assistant Judge-executive to replace the retiring Ed Pendery, a distant relative of Steve's for whom Pendery Park was named.

        Howard “Mac” McMillan, a retired Army colonel, had filled the positionuntil two months ago, when he resigned to return to Washington, D.C. to take a job with the Internal Revenue Service.

        Now, the commissioners, with help from the Northern Kentucky Area Development District, are searching again for a day-to-day county coordinator.

        In addition to budget cuts during the past two years, the county has initiated a business tax and license fee collection system that eventually will handle collections for most of the cities in the county.

        “We already take care of Fort Thomas and we hope to have several more cities on line next year,” Mr. Pendery said.

        “The principal frustration for collecting for the cities is that there is no off-the-shelf software for multiple tax collection,” he said. “We have to modify our existing software.”

        enton County, which does the tax and fee collections for all its cities, needed several years to get its program in line, he said.

        “This is a long-term project,” Mr. Pendery said. “ But ultimately it will be more efficient for the county and the cities.”

        The county also has become more aggressive with road maintenance and improvements, upgrades in parks and recreation, and with completing a combined emergency dispatch center that goes on line next summer.

        The county has secured a grant, combined with county money, for a $250,000 countywide emergency siren system that will come on line in 2002.

        Meanwhile, the county plans to spend about a year working on a re-addressing program to bring all addresses and street numbers into proper order. The project is expected to help speed response for emergency agencies, Mr. Prendery said.


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