Scioto shows failed plans

Published 9:53 am Thursday, August 20, 2009

The news reports spread quickly late Tuesday night: Ohio Auditor of State Mary Taylor was going to announce the following morning that one of Ohio’s 88 counties would be placed in fiscal emergency for the first time in the state’s history.

But what spread even quicker were the questions. What county is it? What caused the problems? What will happen now? Could it be Lawrence County?

The answers came early Wednesday when it was announced that Lawrence’s western neighbor, Scioto County, was the unfortunate recipient of this dubious distinction.

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A fiscal emergency is just a fancy way of saying the county is broke and either can’t pay its bills or likely won’t be able to in the near future. A state-appointed commission will step in and outline specific steps that should be taken to eliminate the deficit and prevent it from happening in the future.

Basically, the state grabs the wheel and starts driving the bus. This should be an embarrassment to any elected officials who have sat by and watched this happen. Scioto County Commission Chairman Thomas Reiser told the Associated Press that the commission voted to ask Taylor to perform an audit, knowing the outcome would likely result in the state getting involved.

So taxpayer dollars will be spent to help well-paid county leaders do the job for which they are already being paid.

Taylor said the county has a $3.5 million deficit and that the state had been assisting for nearly two years to try to avoid fiscal emergency.

Obviously, enough wasn’t done.

But this begs to question: Is Lawrence County on the same path?

The county’s financial woes have been well publicized and documented in recent years. And while things certainly aren’t as bad as Scioto County, the county does have more than half a million dollars in unpaid bills and expenses that keep increasing while revenue dips.

Scioto County’s situation should serve as a wake up call for Lawrence County officials as well as any other government agency that refuses to make the changes needed to adjust to a sluggish economy.

Allowing the state to step in shouldn’t be looked at as a solution, rather as a sign that local leaders failed to do the jobs for which they are elected.