Hamilton County Commissioners David Pepper
and Todd Portune
have proposed a "roadmap" on how to fix the county's budget situation. They released it at their Wednesday meeting, then Pepper sent it out to his e-mail list too. If you haven't seen it, here you go.
Special Edition: A Roadmap Forward
In light of the defeat of Issue 27 last week, and our difficult budget situation, many have been asking how the County will manage our safety challenges. This week, we outlined the broad strategy and specific steps we will undertake. It is both a responsible, and comprehensive, approach, and will allow us to do the most with the precious few resources we have.
We invite any and all citizens--whether they supported or opposed Issue 27--to bring forward their best ideas as we tackle these challenges together.
A Four-Point Roadmap Through Our Budget and Safety Crisis
1. BALANCE THE BUDGET AND RESTORE THE RESERVES
The multi-million commitment to rent beds in Butler County made several years back, when there was not sufficient money to pay for that commitment, has drained the County's reserves to a precariously low level. If the County goes on fiscal watch, or its bond rating is downgraded, our problems only get worse. Priority number one is therefore to stop the bleeding, and make the tough decisions necessary to balance our 2008 budget and replenish our reserves to a more healthy level. This challenging process will occur over the next few weeks.
2. CONTINUE REFORMS, AND REDUCE RECIDIVISM
Our most fundamental work, and one issue that both sides of Issue 27 agreed on, is that to resolve both our safety and overcrowding challenges, we must reform and improve our criminal justice system comprehensively. Most important is to reduce our 70% recidivism rate, which drives the explosion in our jail population. But rather than spending money haphazardly on new programs, we must make these decisions responsibly and thoughtfully. Key steps will be:
-Retain the Vera Institute to consult the County on reforms, staff the Criminal Justice Commission, and create an accountability process for all public funded programs intended to reduce recidivism (use private and public dollars). A Vera report in December will provide a detailed profile and analysis of our current prison population, which will help shape future decisions on how to best reform the system and handle the inmate population we see.
Continue the Reentry Pilot Program, which is reducing recidivism through up-front intervention, and Project Disarm, which will help get the most violent offenders off the street.
-Continue the work of the Criminal Justice Commission. The CJC is exploring ways to expand the mental health court; implement a certificate of rehabilitation to help ex-offenders reenter the workforce; explore work release programs; and other reforms. Its work must move forward.
-Identify resources for prevention: We must creatively identify all resources to improve treatment/prevention, including working with the Sheriff to maximize asset forfeiture dollars for prevention/intervention and drug treatment issues, which are permissible (and required) expenditures under both state and federal law. (* the amount seized from asset forfeitures nets about $650-700K annually for the Sheriff's office)
-Create a robust accountability system for all programs that intersect with the Criminal Justice system and that are intended to reduce recidivism. We must ensure that every dollar is spent effectively, and gets results.
-Conduct a summit on Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System early in the year, to examine broad-term reform to how our criminal justice system handles mental illness. This will not only improve our criminal justice but is a moral imperative.
3. REDUCE JUVENILE CRIME/ENHANCE PREVENTION
We must do all we can to keep young people on the right path, and not entangled in the crime and violence in our community:
-Finalize creation of the Juvenile Justice Subcommittee (of the CJC), and begin its work to reduce juvenile crime and improve diversion opportunities.
-Roll out High School Dropout Prevention effort.
-Maximize After School and Youth Employment Opportunities.
4. LONG-TERM SPACE PROBLEM/RENTAL
We must make responsible short- and long-term decisions regarding jailspace, but do so only when we have come to grips with our overall budget picture. This will involve a number of factors:
-Explore lower-cost rental of space: we must continue to explore Campbell and BooneCounties in Kentucky as lower-cost alternatives to ButlerCounty; and continue to support a change in Ohio law that would allow us to rent space across the river at a time that we can afford it.
-Explore short-term revenue sources to help us through the crisis, including increasing the federal reimbursement we receive for space rented to federal prisoners; and more effective collection from local jurisdictions
-Explore our long-term options with the Queensgate location, and what to do with the CampWashington site.
While the road ahead is not easy, what we must do is clear. I look forward to your continued feedback as we move forward.