LIMA — After years of cuts to Ohio’s allocations going to local governments, Allen County Commissioners met with state Rep. Bob Cupp Thursday afternoon to try to head off any future reductions by asking Cupp to support a statewide initiative led by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio that would ask state dollars be budgeted to fund public defenders and boards of elections.
“We realize there’s not a printing press, and there’s limited dollars,” Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan said.
CCAO Legislative Counsel John Leutz estimated the state has cut roughly $250 million from local funds as it has dealt with tightening budgets. But while that money is off the table, Leutz and CCAO Managing Director Cheryl Subler proposed that Ohio could help defray the higher costs local municipalities must grapple with by effectively paying for county agencies already largely managed by the state.
Currently, the county pays the operational budgets of both the board of election and public defender, but much of the ins-and-outs of the offices are dictated by larger state agencies. For example, Ohio’s Secretary of State sets the hours and the regulations that county boards of election must follow.
Cupp said that there’s an understanding among legislators that counties and other local municipalities are hurting due to budget cuts, but it would be a hard sell in the General Assembly to add funds to line items depreciated in the past.
“We do have to find a way to fix this,” Cupp said.
Another issue affecting the bottom line of county budgets has been the opioid crisis. Many first responders and mental health professionals have had to expand services to deal with the new problem, thereby putting higher stresses on county budgets.
Allen County Commissioners also asked Cupp if counties are going to see any major new revenue from online sales tax collected by the state.
“I think there will be some. I don’t think it will be a windfall, but there will be some,” Cupp said.
“Well, we appreciate whatever you can do,” Commissioner Greg Sneary said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.