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Addition by subtraction doesn’t add up

Anyone who paid attention to local politics in the recent election probably heard a lot about the devastating cuts to what is commonly called the Local Government Funds.

You might not know exactly what this means but you almost certainly have been impacted by these reductions.

The Local Government Funds, a revenue-sharing program dating back to 1934, provides general operating funds for communities and reimbursements that compensated for local property taxes eliminated during the past decade.

As Gov. John Kasich looked to fill a nearly $8 billion deficit, lots of hits were felt locally. It is impossible to bridge a gap this size and not make some painful cuts.

But the drastic slashing may be detrimental to Ohio’s future. The concept that this will make the state stronger — basically addition by subtraction — doesn’t really add up.

A recent report by Policy Matters Ohio — a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization that has been honored for its innovative work — has helped show exactly how significant these cuts were.

The 2012-13 state budget cut Local Government Funds by 25 percent in the first year and increased that to 50 percent this year.

The cuts total just over $1 billion for calendar years 2012 and 2013, a nearly 50 percent reduction from 2010 and 2011. All local entities — county, city, village, township or special district — are affected. County health and human services levies — for senior services, children’s services, mental health and developmental disabilities and health districts — lost $210 million.

“Private wealth is built on a foundation of well-maintained highways, good schools and other basic services, things we often take for granted,” report author Wendy Patton, state fiscal director for Policy Matters said in a prepared release. “The more we cut, the more our wealth erodes.”

Locally, the losses in the current two-year budget compared to 2010-2011, include, among others:

Public Library Fund — $118,000

Schools — $4.7 million

County operations — -$1.9 million

City of Ironton — $71,000

Here are the losses to health and human service levies:

County mental health/developmental disabilities — $208,000

Lawrence County health district — $15,000.

Policy Matters officials point to these cuts as basically short-term solutions to Ohio’s larger issues and measures that will actually stifle growth down the road.

“As legislators prepare to make decisions about the next state budget, they should look closely at conditions in the communities they represent,” said Patton. “What’s happening on the ground tells a story of struggle and decline in too many Ohio communities. It’s time to restore investment needed for a better future.”

It is hard to argue with their logic.

Some will point to the so-called casino revenue that will divided among Ohio’s 88 counties as a remedy.

It isn’t.

Those dollars only go to the county and the exact amount will constantly be in flux.

With the state currently sitting on more than $1 billion in its “rainy day fund” and still failing to address other spending issues, you have to think that now is time to start putting this money back into our local communities.

It is certainly “raining” here in southern Ohio and investing in progress is the only way it will be achieved.

 

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.