County to focus on substance abuse, water projects, jail in 2020

Montgomery County will focus on substance abuse prevention programs, water and sewer projects, and improvements to the county jail in 2020.

The county’s budget increased by 5%, from nearly $871 million in 2019 to $914 million next year.

Nearly half of the budget approved by the county commissioners on Tuesday will go toward social services, like expanded addiction and substance abuse care and mental health services, said Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert.

“These are the things we asked the public for dollars for, and these are the things we are doing,” Colbert said. “We’re doing what we said we were going to do.”

The 2020 budget provides an additional $8.5 million to substance abuse prevention and addiction treatment.

The largest piece of the new budget is the $34.8 million the county will invest in utility capital projects, like rehabilitating a water tank in Centerville.

RELATED: Montgomery County to spend $500K on plan to improve jail after lawsuits

Colbert said Montgomery County will invest about $5 million more in criminal justice, through alternatives to incarceration, increased court security and the jail master plan.

The jail master plan is scheduled to be completed in May 2020. The project will cumulatively take about six years, Colbert said.

Montgomery County hired consulting company HDR to develop the master plan. HDR will create a “census,” Colbert said, defining how many people the jail will need to house.

Colbert said the current jail needs to be de-bunked, meaning there should be no bunk beds in the jail.

The county will also allocate $5 million for a new municipal court in Trotwood.

“We are going to meet the public where they are,” Colbert said of the move.

Currently, the Western Division municipal court is located in New Lebanon. A lack of public transportation options to and from New Lebanon was a major factor in the decision, county officials said.

MORE: Trotwood tapped for new municipal court facility

Prior to the sales tax increase, the county faced a loss of revenue from changes to the Medicaid Managed Care Sales Tax. Colbert said Montgomery County was looking at cutting programs like the ED/GE grants for economic development and the arts.

“We would have been cutting to the bone,” he said.

The county used funds from the sales tax increase and water and sewer rate increases to make large investments in water and sewer infrastructure and jail improvements. In 2019 there was a one-time quarter of a percent increase in sales tax.

Water and sewer rates went up 5.6% in 2019. Rates will continue to rise 5.6% annually until 2022.

Economic Development/Government Equity (ED/GE) programming continues to be funded.

In 2019, the program attracted General Motors to the county. The 2020 budget gives the program an additional half a million dollars, up from $2 million in 2019.

“We will continue to invest in key infrastructure pieces in 2020,” Colbert said.

The new state gas tax will also help fund more infrastructure projects.

The Third Street bridge replacement and the expansion of U.S. Route 40 are examples of county projects made possible by the gas tax, Colbert said.

RELATED: Montgomery County awarded $8M to expand U.S. Route 40

“The Third Street bridge is the largest bridge we’ve ever done in the history of the county, and that’s a perfect example of where the gas tax will be helpful,” Colbert said. “Without the gas tax, you wouldn’t have money at (the Ohio Department of Transportation) to do these things, without the gas tax we wouldn’t be able to put the local match up for some of the bridge work we’re doing.”

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