Friday, May 1, 2009

Counting All Citizens: Preparing for the 2010 Census

In 2010, the U.S. Census will define us as a Nation, a State, a County, a Township, a City and a Village.

In addition to helping our state leaders define our Congressional and Statehouse districts, the census outcome directly impacts the allocation of billions of dollars in government funding. And sometimes an accurate count can mean the difference in the very identity of a jurisdiction--between, say, being a "city" (5,000 people or more) or a "village."

That’s why I've teamed up with Mayor Mallory, Green Township Trustee Dave Linnenberg, and Silverton Mayor John Smith, to create the best countywide effort possible to ensure that every citizen of the County is counted, and every jurisdiction’s count is as accurate as possible.

In the past two weeks, on the East and West sides of the County, we have brought together Mayors, Trustees and administrators from the vast majority of the County's 49 jurisdictions to meet with census experts to ensure a complete count in Hamilton County. From those meetings, each jurisdiction will form their own "Complete County Committee," which will work in the coming year to do all they can to get every citizen in their community counted in the 2010 census.

Stay tuned as this work begins.

For more information, go to the Census Website. (For a video, click here). And over this year, the County will be providing far more information to help ensure every citizen is counted.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Moody's Gives Positive Report on County Fiscal Discipline

Amid a lot of difficult decisions and severe revenue pressures, it was gratifying that Moody's rating agency not only gave the county a "stable outlook" on our bond rating, but praised our efforts to limit spending and bring strong fiscal discipline amid this challenging environment. Moody's also noted positively our continued investment in growth measures, such as the Banks project, as a way to "grow" out of the economic difficulties we all face.

Among Moody's observations:
  • "the stable outlook is based on the newly adopted minimum General Fund reserve policies, which should prevent further narrowing of reserve levels"
  • "Progress continues on various downtown redevelopment projects, including the Banks project, which is expected to bring long-term economic benefits."
  • "Unemployment figures remain lower than the state"
  • "Moody's believes the county's financial operations are well-managed"
  • "Moody's believes that county management's demonstrated commitment to making the necessary cuts will help maintain an adequate financial position"
  • "In response to declining reserves, in September 2007, county management, with the support of elected officials, implemented key policies and set specific goals to restore reserves to healthier levels"
  • In 2008, "county administration, including elected officials, moved quickly to make the necessary reductions to close the gap" to maintain the County's reserve policy
  • "In general, the county has undertaken a broad strategic initiative targeting key financial challenges, including frequent monitoring of budget to actual financial performance and a commitment to making adjustments to insure financial targets are achieved."
  • "Moody's believes that significant efficiencies have been gained"

Finally, Moody's concluded that the stable outlook "takes into account [] the county's adopted policy to rebuild reserves, and demonstrated willingness to make difficult budgetary decisions to reduce expenditures in order to retain limited reserve levels."

No doubt, we've been making difficult decisions every step of the way, particularly since the economic slowdown began to hit. Much pain has been involved--and much of it shouldered by employees at all levels.

But as the Moody's analysis underscores, the fiscally disciplined (and pro-growth) approach we have been pursuing is the only responsible course we can take in the long run. And it is the best way to carry us through until the time that our economy--and revenues--rebound.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Making Work Pay: Another Successful Effort

Today, I was thrilled to meet and thank the volunteers who make our regional "Make Work Pay" effort such a success.

As I explained at the beginning of the tax season, this is a free tax preparation program that boosts working families by helping them apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit. For many, this provides the boost that lifts them out of poverty (while avoiding the fees and high interest payments they have to pay through a private tax preparer).

The key to the program are the hundreds of volunteers who sit down with citizens and walk them through the tax filing process. Today we recognized them and thanked them for their work.

At the same time, we got the first preliminary results from the season--and they were strong.

Last year, not including the one-time "checks" sent out from the first stimulus legislation in early 2008, Hamilton County's effort brought in $5,577,496 in tax refunds--including $2,486,050 in EITC refunds.

This year, that number jumped considerably--to $6,788,605, including $2,632,838 in EITC refunds. These refunds went to 4,826 total individuals.

This is almost $7M brought into the local economy through a voluntary effort. And in this tough economic time, this boost--along with the savings from our prescription drug discount program and other efforts--puts real money in our families' pockets.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Build Hamilton County": Making the County More Business-Friendly

Today we began to roll out an exciting new change in Hamilton County.

It's called "Build Hamilton County," and it's our effort to streamline and accelerate the process for residential and commercial development in the County.

As the Business Courier reported, the process involves:

1. creating a one-stop approach to the development meeting process, with one, multi-agency predevelopment meeting (as opposed to the multiple meetings that are now required), saving valuable time and resources for all involved

2. creating a "Build Hamilton County" development web portal which provides the key information to developers on how to move forward with projects, including the ability to schedule and initiate the development process. Currently, no such centralized website exists to help projects go through the development process.

3. working with all the 48 jurisdictions of the County to share and coordinate on development projects and code enforcement, as opposed to requiring businesses to go through the ringer of dealing with multiple jurisdictions separately.

This is part of our broader effort to stimulate investment, economic activity and job creation as much as we can in this challenging year. I'll provide more details as we roll these changes out in the coming weeks.

Swine Flu Update

We had an update today from County Health Commission Tim Ingram about the swine flu outbreak in North America, the handful of cases in the United States, and what we are doing locally to prepare for any cases that might come here.

The bottom line: the cases that have been in the United States thus far have been mild (19 of 20 people didn't even go to the hospital), so there is no reason for alarm. If someone feels flu symptoms, they should see their doctor. And the best way to avoid getting or spreading anything is the same common sense one should always use: wash your hands, do not cough openly, and other basic hygiene.

For more information, go to

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Unemployment: Keeping Our Head Above Water

The most recent unemployment numbers are in, and although our rate is still far too high (8.2 percent), we remain among the strongest counties in Ohio in terms of keeping our citizens employed.

Only seven counties, out of 88, have lower unemployment rates. We have the second lowest of the major metropolitan counties. (Franklin: 7.8%; Cuyahoga: 8.6%; Montgomery: 11.3%; Summit: 9.6%). And we have the lowest in the region. (Warren: 8.5%; Clermont: 9.4%; Butler: 9.1%).

This is where our diverse economy really boosts us, even in tough times.

Next step: getting back below 8, then 7, percent.
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