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Cuts in state funding concern county commissioners

Clark County commissioners signed a resolution Thursday opposing a proposal in the state budget that would cut the county’s Local Government Funds by 12 percent.

Under a proposed amendment by Senator Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, Clark County would be among 54 counties whose state funding would drop to 30 percent.

Clark County receives 42.72 percent of undivided state funding that is distributed between area cities, townships and villages.

If the plan is approved, commissioners say the reduction would result in another financial blow to the county that has already seen its state funding drop 32 percent from $2.5 million in 2009 to $1.7 million last year. Officials project the county will get about $1 million this year.

Commissioners John Detrick, Rick Lohnes and David Hartley say the county can’t afford more cuts in state funding. They also said the reductions in the last few years has caused a financial burden on smaller municipalities and created tension between local government officials who are now fighting for state funds.

“We’ve already taken such a big hit in Local Government Funds. We can’t afford to take an even bigger hit,” Hartley said. “And quite frankly, I’m offended by the fact that the state is essentially trying to pit local governments against each other. They keep shrinking the amount of dollars and everybody is scrambling to get more money.”

The plan to change the distribution formula for local government funds comes as Ohio counties have received an influx of casino tax revenue.

Since Ohio counties and certain cities began getting casino tax revenue in June 2012, Clark County has received more than $1 million.

But Ohio law prohibits the county from giving the money to area municipalities and other organizations who have asked county commissioners to share the wealth due to the state cuts they have received.

Lohnes, however, said casino money cannot be used to supplant or replace the loss of other funds based on the constitutional amendment passed in 2009.

“The casino money was an additive,” Lohnes said. “The casino money is a part of the change in the Ohio constitution and it comes to the county because that’s the way they wanted it.”

Detrick said he, Lohnes and Hartley will send separate letters to Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield, Reps. Bob Hackett, R-London, and Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, urging them to support the county’s opposition to the proposed plan.

“It’s going to put Clark County at a major disadvantage,” Detrick said.

He said the casino revenue would not make up for the loss state revenue if the plan was approved.

“It won’t replaced what we’ve already lost and this will put us even further in a hole,” Detrick said.

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