Thursday, October 9, 2003

Thrifty solution way too costly

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BATAVIA - It almost sounds like a joke. But Clermont commissioners aren't laughing.

They had to cancel plans to buy a money-saving computer package because they can't afford it.

The system would have increased efficiency by reducing interdepartmental redundancies.

But after commissioners saw the $1.7 million price tag, it became a casualty in the county's battle to keep expenses to a minimum.

In addition, county department heads have been asked to slash their 2004 budgets by 5 percent. Their requests had totaled $52.8 million, but the county can only afford to spend $48.2 million a nine percent cut.

"We've got to get what they've requested for 2004 down closer to the adopted budget," said Sukie Scheetz, controller for the Clermont County Office of Management and Budget.

She said there is at least a $500,000 reduction in revenue for 2003 as compared with the previous year.

"For many years, the Board of Commissioners have had a very strict policy of not appropriating any more than what the previous year's revenues were, and we are going to stick to that policy," said Board President Bob Proud. "It's basic economics. You don't spend more than you have."

The cybersolution would have brought the county into the 21st century, said Auditor Linda Fraley, who was part of the 100-member committee that researched its prospective benefits.

It would have centralized information, she said, adding that it had been a goal of commissioners dating back to 1995-96.

A formal plan was drafted in 2002, complete with a consultant who helped the county determine what it would need.

"I wasn't surprised, I was just disappointed. I guess I'm unique because I could see the vision - the things that it could do," Fraley said. "It can't be a dead issue, because we're eventually going to have to do something."

Commissioners have pledged to look again at the system, but only when there is money available to purchase it.


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