Butler County’s future: Officials are hoping to share more services and save tax dollars. Is that possible?

Butler County Commissioner Don Dixon has said if the county is to survive and thrive in uncertain financial times, it needs to focus on attracting new businesses. One of the keys in that endeavor is low taxes.

The county and the local jurisdictions already collaborate on a number of fronts, but Dixon said they need to do more.

“It’s going to take a whole new look at government,” Dixon said. “We’re gong to have to make some changes, government cannot continue to operate the way it’s running now.

“It’s not about us all building our own little kingdom. We’re in this together, there’s a way through it but it’s going to be helping each other and taking a different approach on how we provide services.”

The Journal-News investigated the economic statusand threats in Butler County for a special report that published in the Sunday newspaper. Click here to view the front page from Sunday, and here's a look at what the Journal-News found: 
• 6 things that show Butler County's economy is going strong
• Butler County rebounded from near-financial ruin. Can it last?

The governments in the county already collaborate with bulk road salt buys, taking advantage of volume purchasing. The fire chief’s association does the same with some equipment purchases and joint studies, and the county engineer and townships partner on road projects.

Most recently, a number of townships have banded together to seek grant funds to replace obsolete emergency radios.

Commissioner T.C. Rogers said there are many possibilities for collaboration.

“We are all finding that there is still room for synergies where you avoid duplication of services and also capital assets,” he said. “Everybody doesn’t need a back hoe which is sitting two days out of five. Or a dump truck, everybody wants one with their name on the door, but every government purchase should be used to the fullest extent.”

Joint purchases are one thing, but consolidating services like 911 dispatching has been tougher. The state mandated consolidation several years ago, and Hamilton — mainly as a cost saving measure — and Oxford gave up centers and now have calls dispatched by the sheriff.

The county risked losing about $400,000 annually in 911 taxes. There are are still dispatch centers in Fairfield, Middletown, Monroe, Trenton and West Chester Twp. The centers in Monroe and Trenton are secondary dispatchers and don’t count toward the total number centers allowed by the state.

The funding loss threat appears to have evaporated for the time being, so consolidation talks have seemingly cooled.

Fairfield City Manager Mark Wendling said he thinks the county needs to start a renewed consolidated service conversation in many areas, but he said his city’s dispatch center is crucial.

“We haven’t surveyed the residents but we do feel it is important to maintain our dispatch center,” Wendling said. “Our dispatchers are intimately familiar with the city itself, where the streets are. I think it’s important we maintain that service. We’re not in a situation where we feel we can’t afford to do that.”

Middletown and West Chester officials have similar feelings.

New County Administrator Judi Boyko said she knows her counterparts in the cities and townships have the “will” to share services and collaborate where it is feasible but there are many things to consider, such as statutory responsibilities, which are different for cities and townships and other forms of government.

“A primary goal is to share services, my peers in Butler County are exceptional professionals who want to be effective stewards of the taxpayers money,” she said. “So I believe that everyone from the county to the local communities want to find ways to collaborate, to share services to make government more efficient, cost effective and continue to deliver quality services.”

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