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Sales Tax Increase Considered for Public Safety Improvements

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio (Paula Toti) -- No cuts and no layoffs and a focus on slow growth. That's the short version of the $204 million dollar budget presented to Hamilton County Commissioners Monday. It's a change that points to recovery after the recession, and the commissioners are also being asked to consider improvements to public safety.

Local 12's Paula Toti explains how taxpayers may be asked to spend a little.

Improvements needed to take the Hamilton County Coroner's office and crime lab into 2030 would take 56 million dollars.

That was the number given in a study County Commissioners had ordered a few years ago.  Given that voters turned down two jail levys it's no surprise.  Improvements pretty much started and ended with the study.  But Catholic Health Partners has offered to give the county the largely vacant Mercy Health Mount Airy Hospital.

"The gift of this building to the county allows us to address overcrowding at the crime lab and overcrowding in the jail at a fraction it would be for taxpayers to address individually", says Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco.

It would create twice the space originally talked about for the crime lab and new space for the Sheriff's Department to free up more than 100 beds at the jail and combine a property room for the Sheriff's Department and Cincinnati Police.  But the tax watchdog group, COAST, says the county should be even more creative and make cuts, "there's plenty of waste, they've just begun to scratch the surface, get rid of the rest and then say to taxpayers we've gone far enough".

Would taxpayers go for a sale tax increase? "I'm possibly in favor but would like to see the stats on how it will help the people of Cincinnati". Another says, "I also think spending fuels the economy so I don't know maybe there could be a better way".

Coroner Sammarco knows a tax increase is a tough battle so she's explored the idea of a lab on her own and says it's a good opportunity for a public private partnership if commissioners don't allocate the dollars.
The Commissioners have also been asked by the County Administrator to look at two other plans that would take a quarter increase in the sales tax.  One to eliminate fees to build a home in the county and one that would be revenue neutral.  For all the money raised with the quarter that would be given back to lower property taxes.

The County Commissioners have all said coming out of a recession doesn't seem the right time to raise taxes. However, three public meetings are planned on the proposed budget and the ideas presented by the county administrator.

VIDEO here




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