Tuesday, April 29, 2003

1% cuts ordered for Butler County

Fox angry that most unit directors ignored earlier call for reduction

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - In anticipation of possible state funding cuts, Butler County commissioners decided Monday to cut the county general fund budget by 1 percent.

The cut will go into effect Thursday, and will save about $400,000.

Commissioners said they hope their action will wake up county department heads and office-holders who think commissioners are exaggerating Butler's budget problems.

"This should get their attention," Commissioner Mike Fox said.

Commissioners are angry that all but one county department head ignored their request for department contingency plans if the state makes further funding cuts. County Recorder Danny Crank was the only one who submitted a plan.

"I think it's astounding that we didn't get any response to our letters except from Danny," Fox said. "Believe me, we'll hear from them now."

The commissioners directed Finance Director Tim Williams to send another letter to department heads informing them of the 1 percent cut and asking them what parts of their budgets they want cut. Department heads who don't respond will have every line item in their budgets cut the same amount, Williams said.

"I'm amazed at how many people I run into who think we have money stashed under a mattress," Fox said. "State cuts are real and are affecting all our operations."

More state funding reductions are expected in July.

Adding to the strain on Butler County is that its revenues are down 1 percent from this time last year, and expenditures are almost 1 percent higher than last year, Williams said. Part of the problem is that sales tax revenues are lagging $54,726 behind last year, he said.

"Sales tax revenue has been very inconsistent," Williams said.

Fox said it's better for the county to make cuts now than to wait until July.

"The longer you wait, the bigger the cuts have to be," he said. "The counties that get into trouble are the ones that see the train coming and stay strapped to the tracks."

Williams said some of the cut could be restored if the state doesn't reduce funding as much as anticipated.

E-mail skemme@enquirer.com

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