EDITORIAL: Understand how government funds work

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 26, 2022

On Wednesday, The Ironton Tribune reported that the Lawrence County Commission had moved to pay down the $175,000 remaining on the loan for the main barn at the county fairgrounds in Rome Township.

As part of this move, the fairgrounds will be open as a venue for community events for the next three years.

It seemed to be good news and, as fair board president Randy Lambert said, a “win-win for the county and community,” so we were a little surprised at reaction we heard online from people angry with the commissioners.

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Complaints basically took the form of wondering why the funds were not used to repair roads or were put to other issues.

This anger, which may be rooted in well-intentioned concern over very real needs, seems to be misplaced in this case and based in a misunderstanding of how the funds in the matter work.

The county was allotted federal funds in COVID-19 relief for pandemic-related use. Funds that were not used had to be returned by a set date.

Had the county not used its remaining funds, they would have been sent back.

And to use these funds, there must be a need related to the pandemic.

In the case of the barn, commissioners cited its large space and open air environment making it ideal for meetings and events if social districting is necessary.

While restrictions of that type are non longer in place, it is entirely possible that they could return if there is another spike in cases or a contagious variant emerges.

So, by meeting the COVID-19 need, the funds were able to used in the county.

Another misconception is that the county commission is responsible for paving city or village streets. This is also not true. Municipalities handle those, unless they are a state or county highway.

And in the case of state highways, that is handled by the Ohio Department of Transportation — or in the case of U.S. 52, a federal highway, ODOT uses federal funds.

As commission president DeAnna Holliday points out, state, county and township roads are paid for through the gasoline tax in the state. Money goes to the state and, through a formula, it is then allotted for use throughout Ohio.

In the case of bridges connecting Ohio with other states, those are paid through federal funds and maintained by the county.

And the COVID-19 funds being put toward the barn did not take money from the county’s funds for other purposes.

All too often, some think all government funding comes from the same pot and can be used for anything.

In this case, the county commission had funding for a specific purpose, put it to use for that and took care of a longstanding need of the fair board.

Again, it’s a win for everyone.