Council calls on state to share of ‘rainy day’ funds

By Laurie Hamame -

Ohio is sitting on $2.7 billion in “rainy day” reserves and Oberlin city council members are not happy about it.

They passed a resolution Sept. 17 calling on Gov. John Kasich to invest the budget surplus back into cities and villages, which for years have seen cuts in state funding.

When Kasich took office in 2011, the state’s savings account held just 89 cents.

It continues to grow and in July an additional $657.7 million was deposited in the account.

“When you go on national television, it looks really good when you can say, ‘I’m the governor of a state and we have a balanced budget — in fact, we have a surplus,’” said councilman Kelley Singleton.

“The follow-up question is never, ‘Well how did you get there?’ The truth is they did it on the backs of cities and towns across Ohio and I just want to know, after we pass this, who’s gonna be the one to nail it to his door?”

Ohio Office of Budget and Management director Timothy Keen said the rainy day fund’s growth is “due to state spending that came in below projections and income tax revenues that came in above projections.”

Municipal governments around the state, including Avon Lake and Lorain, are speaking out to insist that the money accrued be distributed to local governments to support vital local services.

By way of significantly reducing the Local Government Fund, eliminating the estate tax, and phasing out the tangible personal property tax, the Ohio General Assembly has repeatedly decreased funding and revenue sharing, shifting their taxing burden to local governments.

As of 2007, Ohio counties, cities, villages, townships have lost more than $1 billion a year in state aid in inflation-adjusted terms, according to Policy Matters Ohio, a policy research organization.

Since these slashes have taken place, Oberlin has lost more than $6 million in revenue.

That’s led council to ask voters for an increase in local income taxes to offset the state’s actions, “making us look like the bad guys sometimes,” councilwoman Linda Slocum said.

Oberlin council’s resolution says that when municipalities experience success in fostering safe communities, building sound infrastructure, and increasing economic development, the entire state reaps the resulting benefits.

Routes 58 and 511 are major roads that pass through town, making them heavily used by many people who don’t live or do business in Oberlin, said council president Bryan Burgess.

Financial assistance from the state ensures that local communities are able to provide crucial services and improvements in infrastructure and public safety, he said.

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.

By Laurie Hamame