Darke County Sheriff Toby Spencer, a Republican, sent a sharply-worded letter to Gov. John Kasich’s top cop, criticizing state funding cuts to local governments as well as the Ohio Highway Patrol’s efforts to curb drug use in high schools.
“I am extremely disappointed and becoming more disenchanted daily over the antics of the state of Ohio and the State Highway Patrol to be shoved down the throats of county and local police agencies,” Spencer wrote to Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born. “The state of Ohio and Gov. Kasich have steadily ripped away the funding from local governments, only to boast and boost the antics of state agencies, such as your recent initiative to infiltrate our school systems with a drug prevention program.”
The patrol, Ohio National Guard and Ohio High School Athletics Association began an outreach program that targets and recruits athletes for anti-drug and alcohol messages, said Joe Andrews, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, which supervises the patrol.
“I don’t think we can go wrong in trying to get as many people out there with the message about drugs and alcohol,” Andrews said. He noted that the patrol has had school program for at least 30 years.
Spencer could not be reached for comment Friday.
Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, also a Republican, said he supports the patrol’s anti-drug efforts. “We all need to pool resources and work together to solve this problem,” Plummer said. He added, “I don’t know if going and talking to the athletes for five minutes is going to do anything but it doesn’t cost me anything so it’s worth a try.”
That said, Plummer acknowledges that county sheriffs have been watching the patrol expand its footprint and personnel in recent years while local governments have sustained big budget cuts, many of which are passed down from state leaders.
Under the Kasich administration, funding to the Local Government Fund dropped 32 percent between fiscal year 2011 and fiscal year 2014, diverting hundreds of millions of dollars away from local schools, cities and counties.
“If there is anything that we could use from the state of Ohio, it would be the return of our local government funds,” Spencer wrote.
The Ohio Highway Patrol Patrol budget has remained relatively flat over the past four years. Funding for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 was $642.3 million compared with $638.9 million appropriated for the current and upcoming fiscal years.
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