Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Hamilton Co. put to the test

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        How well does Hamilton County government manage the $1 billion in taxes coming in every year? Better than most, according to Governing magazine.

        The magazine gave Hamilton County a B rating in what it touts as the most comprehensive evaluation of county governments ever completed of the 40 largest counties in the nation.

        The study said county governments have a tougher job than city or state governments because they have less control over finances and can be caught politically between states and cities.

        Four of Hamilton County's five grades were above the national average — a B in financial management, B+ in capital management, B in human resources and a B+ in “managing for results.” The county got a C+ for information technology.

        The county's grades are especially impressive given the obstacles it has overcome, said Katherine Barrett, one of the study's authors.

        “It faced financial struggles in the early 1990s and is currently dealing with state cutbacks,” Ms. Barrett said..

        Ms. Barrett said the magazine considered overruns at Paul Brown Stadium when grading the county. But she said editors were not aware the county commissioners and administrators hid the overruns from the public for more than six months.

        “Hamilton County did very well,” she said. “They were regarded as a model in capital management.”

        County Administrator Dave Krings said he would dispute the only low grade the county received. He said the county does well with information technology, al lowing residents to pay fines, tickets and taxes through its Web page.

        “If this were a college course, I'd be in the professor's office arguing for a higher grade tomorrow,” Mr. Krings said.

        Other Ohio counties in the study include Franklin (B) and Cuyahoga (C) counties.


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