Kim McCarthy announced her support for Ohio’s county governments today by delivering a letter to the Greene County Commissioners endorsing the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) policy statement, “Stronger Counties. Stronger Partnership. Stronger Ohio.”
According to McCarthy and the CCAO, the enormous and continuing cutbacks to county funding by the state have had a profound negative effect on the quality and availability of vital services in Greene County, and in counties across the state.
“This is not a partisan issue,” said McCarthy. “I’m determined to work beyond partisan divides to serve the real needs of the people of Greene County in the Ohio Statehouse McCarthy is not concerned that the board consists entirely of officials who are Republicans. This is important work, and party affiliations have to be set aside to accomplish what the people of Ohio need. This is about working together for our communities, regardless of party.”
Kim McCarthy has actively monitored the functioning of the Greene County board of commissioners, attending its meetings and participating in public comment on issues relevant to Greene County residents, as well as issues before the board. She observed that county governments were not being properly funded. “I became aware of this problem through my involvement with the Greene County Commission over the years, and this was one of the things that inspired me to run for the state legislature,” said McCarthy.
When the CCAO issued its policy statement, the statement made it clear that local issues being confronted by those in Greene County were similar to those being confronted by counties all across the state. “The state’s revenue policy decisions, coupled with our growing costs, have created an environment where many counties have had to deplete reserves, delay capital projects and struggle to provide the services that Ohioans need. In many instances, while the state was cutting taxes, counties were forced to raise taxes to continue their state mandated functions,” said CCAO First Vice President Julie Ehemann. The mandates Ehemann refers to include schools, policing, and infrastructure. The state legislature has repeatedly acted to cripple county functioning, by reducing or ending taxes that affect the very wealthiest Ohioans, leading to a greater burden for the middle class.
In 2017, state lawmakers passed a $7.8 billion transportation bill with no funding designated for local governments. Although state funding to counties reduced some in the wake of the bursting housing bubble and ensuing market crash of 2008, The CCAO’s report shows that beginning in 2011, support for counties was reduced drastically, falling to less than half of what it had been in the previous decade. These cuts forced counties and municipalities to seek revenue from county sales taxes and steep hikes in local property taxes. More than half of Ohio’s counties have increased sales taxes to the maximum amount that Ohio allows counties to charge, 1.5 percent, on top of what the state of Ohio already charges. These are regressive taxes that weigh heaviest on those least able to afford them.
The unjust property tax-based school funding system in Ohio has long ago been declared unconstitutional by our state’s Supreme Court.The wealthiest regions suffer financially from this systemic neglect, but middle class and poor communities suffer even more harshly from it. Despite the constitutional requirement to reform, those in Columbus have left local school districts to fend for themselves by asking for more property tax money from local residents.
Outgoing Governor John Kasich has made clear that the state government will not disburse money from Ohio’s massive nine-figure budget surplus to local governments. We urge Governor Kasich to reconsider this stance, and offer some of the people’s money back to local and county governments, so that they can serve the needs of the people of Ohio.
Cities and counties have had drastic funding cuts from the state, and are struggling to maintain decent services for the people in Ohio’s communities. Some of our streets and roads are reminiscent of those in eastern Europe during the Soviet era. Schools are using ancient textbooks in some places, and asking financially pressed families to bear the burden of contributing out-of-pocket for classroom supplies. This flight from responsibility by the state is especially galling in light of the Ohio’s current fiscal situation.
“The state has a rainy day fund in excess of 2.7 billion dollars. Well, it’s raining hard right now on Ohio’s municipalities, particularly with the strain from the ongoing opioid crisis and urgent infrastructure needs. When I get to Columbus, I’ll work to see the state return this taxpayer money to Ohio’s counties. This kind of negligence by the state has to end,” McCarthy said.