Local Budgets In Trouble, Too

The past few years have been tough ones for many school districts and other local government entities in Ohio. In order to close a massive gap in the state budget, Gov. John Kasich and legislators reduced spending. That affected both state agencies and local governments.

But, as they say, the hits just keep coming.

Part of the state budget adopted earlier this year provides for changes in some state taxes. Less revenue is expected in accounts from which the Local Government Funds program is handled.

Because the LGF provides for a percentage of that revenue to go to local governments, their state assistance will decrease.

As Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, noted this week, the change will be doubly difficult for local government officials, who also adopted 2014 budgets earlier this year. Because those budgets were based on previous levels of LGF revenue, they will have to be amended.

In addition to the extra paperwork, local officials will have to cope with as-yet not firm reductions in state funding.

Cera is among lawmakers upset about repeated cuts in state support for local governments, schools and libraries. A measure he introduced would require funding those entities at 2005 levels.

That would be impractical. Since 2005 the state has had to make up for billions of dollars in funding shortfalls. Restoring local government funding to that year’s level would wreck the state budget – again.

Still, Cera and others are right to be concerned.

Most local governments have found ways to deal with reductions in state assistance. Some are asking voters for increased local property tax levies.

At the very least, Kasich and legislators should establish a floor for cuts in local government funding. They also should be mindful of how changes such as those in the new budget can affect local governments indirectly.

Many Ohioans understood the need for shared sacrifice to get the state budget back in balance. But it is healthy now, and state leaders should stop adding to the trouble their local counterparts have in keeping their own budgets balanced.