December 20, 2014

Medina
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County wants to ‘make noise’ for local government funds

MEDINA — A local group is reorganizing to ensure voices in Medina County are heard in Columbus concerning funding.

County Commissioner Pat Geissman said she is arranging a meeting of the Local Government Funds Task Force, a group that hasn’t met in several years. Geissman said she would like local lead­ers to petition state represen­tatives and ask them not to cut local government funds that are distributed each year.

Geissman

Geissman

“I think we can make a differ­ence. You’ve got to make noise. You know the old saying, ‘The squeaky wheel gets the oil,’ ” she said, noting that she plans to organize the meet­ing sometime next month.

Each year, the state distributes money to county governments, townships, villages, cities and park districts.

“Local government funds are essentially a state form of revenue sharing that’s been around since the 1930s,” explained Larry Long, director of the County Commissioners Associ­ation of Ohio.

He said specific percentages of certain taxes — including sales tax — are set aside for the fund and then distributed to smaller govern­ments throughout the state. The state’s Public Library Fund works in a similar way and gives money to library districts, Long said.

“The idea is if the economy is good, then the local governments and libraries will share in it; and when the economy’s down like it is right now, … we got to suck it up and tighten our belt. We think it’s fair,” he said.

According to the Ohio Department of Taxa­tion, Medina County entities received about $6.7 million in local government funds in the 2010 fiscal year, which ended in June, and will get about $7 million this fiscal year.

But the state expects to see about an $8 billion budget hole over the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years.

Long said there’s fear that legislators will lessen the per­centage of taxes that go into the fund or possibly cut the fund altogether.

Geissman said balancing the county’s budget has been hard enough in recent years. Any significant cuts in local govern­ment funds would be “devas­tating,” she said. For example, she said local government funds in the county’s budget are about $2.8 million of the $34.5 million in total revenues projected for this year.

That doesn’t include all the money that goes to municipal­ities and other local govern­ments, she said.

“This affects our libraries. It affects the townships. It affects the cities. It affects the (county) Park District — all of us,” Geiss­man said.

“We are all in the same boat. We all get local government funds and we have to get vocal or we will lose more money than we should,” she said.

She said she hopes represen­tatives from townships, munic­ipalities and other groups that receive the funds will attend the meeting next month. She hopes to start a letter-writing campaign to legislators and eventually speak at state budget hearings.

The same task force met in 2004 when Geissman said there was talk local govern­ment funds would be cut. Sev­eral local officials went to Columbus to testify before the state Senate.

“I think we made a differ­ence,” Geissman said, pointing to the fact the funds still exist.

Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.