VANDALIA – Leaders from the City of Vandalia, Butler Township, and the Vandalia-Butler City Schools sent a clear and unequivocal message to the State of Ohio Monday night: Stay out of our affairs, and get out of our wallets!
That message rang loud and clear in a joint resolution passed by the legislative bodies of each entity that called for the state to “cease and desist” from actions that erode local control and Home Rule provisions in the Ohio Constitution.
The resolution comes after months of deliberation and consultation between the local bodies arising from frustration with actions by the Ohio legislature. Those frustrations include unfunded mandates by the state and federal legislature and executive branch as well as continual reductions in local school and government funding.
“This resolution is necessary to demonstrate to the State that local governments stand united in their demand for local control to be returned to local elected representatives,” said Bruce Sucher, President of the Vandalia-Butler Board of Education.
This resolution is the second such resolution by the Board of Education. The Board unanimously passed a resolution calling for local control of schools in April.
Brad Neavin, Superintendent of the school district, said the purpose of the resolution is to serve notice to legislators that the local community is engaged and desires local elected representatives to make decisions, not legislators in Columbus.
“The purpose of a resolution such as this one is to serve notice,” said Neavin. “It serves as a notice to the local constituents that their representatives are fighting for their local interests. And, it serves notice to legislators that local officials are informed, engaged, and deeply vested in ensuring that our state level representatives are truly hearing what is expected of them.”
Vandalia Mayor Arlene Setzer agreed and said it is important for legislators to remember who they represent – the people who elected them – not special interests in the Statehouse.
“We want to make sure the people in Columbus who represent us know directly what our concerns are,” said Setzer. “This is our community, and we want them to hear directly from the community they represent and remind them that they need to stand up for the community they represent.”
Those who passed the resolution hope that as citizens are made aware of these issues, and their impact locally, that pressure will be applied to state representatives and senators to enact change.
“The next steps will involve sharing this information with local constituents, the press and, of course, the legislators,” said Neavin. “At some point, it would behoove our state legislators to respond to these concerns and provide a concise statement as to their position on the issue of giving local control of governance back to where it belongs.”
“We will have a series of articles to inform the community members, and we are going to keep on top of things going on in the legislature,” said Setzer. “We will certainly be communicating our concerns with our local representatives and senators.”
“Our common consensus now to sent notice to the legislature that they have three local entities that are united around these issues,” said Butler Township Trustee Mike Lang. “We hope to have other communities around the state pass similar legislation.”
Each political subdivision, including the city, township, and school district, had separate concerns addressed in the resolution.
Butler Township called for “additional authority in order for the local government to keep pace with citizen’s changing needs and demands.”
“I believe that the best way to solve problems is by putting the tools (to deal with it) closest to the problem,” said Lang. “Local elected officials are those tools. The legislature needs to give locally elected government the power to make smart decisions at the lowest level possible.”
The City of Vandalia expressed concern that the legislature is eroding its Home Rule authority granted under the Ohio Constitution.
The resolution asserts that there has been a “decade long assault on constitutionally protected municipal Home Rule” by the passage of legislation at the state level that has “eroded the rights of local elected officials to determine local policy.”
Butler Township voters recently defeated a Limited Home Rule provision during the November election.
The Board of Education cited section 3313.21 of the Ohio Revised Code that states in part “The Board of Education of each school district shall be the sole Authority in determining and selecting…academic curriculum.” The district also referenced the Ohio Constitution which says the state shall “secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state…”
“It is important local citizens are educated as to the continuing erosion of local control and the increasing level of re-appropriation of local money by the State to balance its own budget,” said Sucher. “This ‘Robin Hood’ approach to funding drains public dollars from the local jurisdictions and is diverted to give the false impression that the state is fulfilling its obligations, maintaining a balanced budget, while appearing to not raise taxes. When citizens are aware of the true situation, they will join us in our efforts to repair this broken system.”