Hamilton County administrators are targeting a 2019 budget that's about $42 million less than what county departments requested.
It's also about $19.3 million less than what county leaders project to spend this year.
The county is faced with balancing the budget without new revenue from a 0.2 percent increase in the county sales tax. Commissioners Todd Portune and Denise Driehaus approved that hike earlier this year but dropped it after threat of legal action concerning the way it was enacted and a petition effort to put the increase on the November ballot.
County Administrator Jeff Aluotto told county department heads at a meeting Tuesday balancing the budget will be a challenging exercise. He also told them to focus on sustainability, which includes competitive county salaries and deferred maintenance.
"Going down a path where we continue to be 20 percent or 17 percent under market on salaries is not going to be sustainable for the future," Aluotto said. "Going down a path where we have pieces of building façade falling off onto Court Street at seven o'clock in the morning is not a sustainable way for the organization to move forward."
Aluotto said for now the county will have to meet those challenges without new revenues, and he's asking department heads for their help.
Commission President Todd Portune says the county will meet the challenge.
"We'll figure out a way to do what we are called upon to do to keep the doors open and the lights on," Portune said. "That doesn't mean that there won't be an impact. That doesn't mean there won't be things that either can't be done in the same way in which they have been, or there might be elements of service that simply cannot be provided under this budget scenario."
Portune said if the county can't generate new revenues, officials won't be able to do what needs to be done.
A task force is reviewing the county budget and Portune says a new tax option "is very much on the table."
See the full Hamilton County budget targets and requests in the document below.