State's Richest County Faces Cash Crisis

Budget Cuts Loom In Hamilton County

Some government services could be trimmed as Hamilton County, the most affluent county in the state, faces a cash crisis.

In May, commissioners cut $4.5 million from the budget when property tax revenue fell short. The state cut the county's share of income taxes by $6.3 million, forcing the county to consider slashing jobs and services, 6News' Jack Rinehart reported.

One-third of the county's $60 million budget goes to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department for road patrols, adult and juvenile jail facilities and protection at the Hamilton County Government and Judicial Center.

With 70 percent of the budget tied up in salaries, cuts won't go unnoticed.

"This is a debilitating blow to an agency that has the largest budget in the county and the most employees," said Sheriff Doug Carter. "But I will tirelessly make sure that we don't have to reduce ... our workforce, which ultimately will have a very detrimental affect on our service."

Commissioners were able to stave off layoffs and service cuts in May, but the latest round of funding cuts represent a 17 percent cut in local spending.

"Since most of our expense is in personnel, obviously we're going to have to probably dig into personnel a little bit," said County Commissioner Steven Dillinger.

Commissioners are considering several options, including cuts in employee benefits, creation of a four-day work week, job sharing, voluntary retirements and layoffs.

The county's workforce totals 900 employees, with nearly half in public safety. The Sheriff's Department will be the last agency to cut, officials said.

"But the ultimate thing, we'll probably have to (lay off) 20 to 30 people," Dillinger said.

Commissioners said they will try to trim $3 million from this year's budget and would borrow another $3 million from a rainy day fund as a last resort.