The job of the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel is to keep utility costs down for Ohio residents. The office has been fighting utility companies' requests for rate hikes for years. Although we know rate hikes have occurred, imagine what it would be like if no one had challenged them.Last year, the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel handled 45,000 inquiries from Ohio residents who had difficulty with their electric, natural gas, telephone or water providers. The Lima Allen Council on Community Affairs staff knows firsthand how often the Ohio consumers' counsel needed to intervene on a customer's behalf because of mistakes that a utility provider made.Before we just assume that cutting the budget for the Ohio consumers' counsel will save taxpayers dollars, consider this: The state's budget does not cover the costs for this service. Its operation is funded by the state's utilities and costs about $1 per year on utility bills for each household. If the Ohio consumers' counsel is no longer funded, will customers get their $1 back? I think we all should know the answer to that before we decide whether we need an advocate to fight the big utility companies. After all, this service exists to protect consumers rights, eliminating it for no budgetary reason seems like a deal for the utility companies.Jackie Fox is executive director of the Lima Allen Council on Community Affairs.