Avoid New Local Assistance Cuts

Local government officials throughout Ohio have been forced to slash spending during the past few years, in large measure because of major cutbacks in state assistance.

Here in East Ohio, Belmont County officials earlier this year agreed they had no choice but to eliminate 10 positions at the Department of Job and Family Services. More may be to come; county Commissioner Ginny Favede warned that the state may reduce local government funding by another 25 percent this year.

Just up the river in Steubenville, city officials have discussed for months how to keep the municipal budget in balance. This week City Manager Cathy Davison said potential steps to that end may include charging residents a special assessment for street lighting, reducing hours for employees of the city health department and cutting some benefits for other municipal workers.

Such discussions have not been unusual, with some East Ohio communities hit particularly hard by the double blows of reduced state aid and tough local economies.

Gov. John Kasich and Ohio legislators have faced their own severe budget challenges during the past couple of years. At one point the state’s two-year budget had been estimated to include an $8 billion gap between spending and revenue. Something had to be done to close it.

But reductions in state aid have hit local governments, including school districts, hard. More of the same would create enormous new burdens.

Kasich and lawmakers should place more local government assistance cuts very low on their budget options list this year.