VANDALIA — Local officials across the state are expressing their displeasure that, at a time of ever-decreasing funding to local municipalities, the Ohio General Assembly found enough money in the state’s new biennial budget to boost the Rainy Day fund by over 70 percent – from the current $1.35 billion to $3.15 billion – over the next two years.
Vandalia City Manager Jon Crusey estimates that the decrease funding through the Local Government Fund will cut $150,000 over two years from city revenue. This is in addition to a decrease of $175,000 due to the elimination of the estate tax and the yet unknown revenue decrease due to the passage of House Bill 5, a measure that brings uniformity to income tax collection across the state
City officials estimated the impact of House Bill 5 at over $700,000 a year when the Vandalia City Council passed a resolution opposing it in 2013.
“This is very disappointing,” said Vandalia Mayor Arlene Setzer. “The Local Government Fund is almost non-existent yet we are expected to provide the services and continue to do what we have been doing. While we are trying to balance our budget, the state keeps piling and piling on.”
City Council and staff began looking at ways to reduce a projected $1 million shortfall in the city’s general fund during last year’s budget cycle. While significant progress had been made to close that gap, the new state budget doesn’t help.
“This adds $75,000 a year to what we need to find,” said City Manager Jon Crusey. “This isn’t a huge percentage of our budget, but when you look at the deficit we are working to fill it is directly related to the cuts in the Local Government Fund, elimination of the Estate Tax, and the elimination of the Personal Property Tax. That has been our gap in funding.”
The new state budget “redirects” $39 million in Local Government Funds by giving $20 million to townships, $4 million to villages with population smaller than 1,000, and $15 million to increase police training all police officers across the state, including State Troopers, Township Constables, County Sheriff Deputies, and State Park Rangers.
“The General Assembly is filled with a majority of folks who represent the townships versus the cities,” said Crusey.
That didn’t help townships in Montgomery County significantly, however. Despite reductions in funding to cities across the county that are estimated to be around $2.7 million over two years, only an additional $197,106 is expected to be redistributed to townships.
State Senator Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) said she disagrees with Kasich’s 6.3 percent reduction in state income taxes – which comes at the expense of school districts and local governments.
“I disagree with the Governor’s (income) tax policy,” said Lehner. “The income tax cut is not significant enough to make a difference to anyone who gets it, yet the cuts keep coming to local government and schools. Local government has to provide basic services, and that has to be paid for. Someone has to pay for it, which means an increase in local taxes which makes no sense to me.”
Setzer agreed with that assessment.
“This equates to the same thing for the schools,” she said. “I think the legislators and Governor are sitting in Columbus making decisions, but I can’t see how they are listening to us.”
Setzer, a Republican, said some may be surprised to hear her criticize the General Assembly, which is a majority Republican, and a Republican governor – one who is expected to announce a run for President of the United States soon.
“I don’t want to talk against my own party, but that’s OK because my primary obligation is to the City of Vandalia and its taxpayers,” she said.Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.