New Website CutsHurtOhio.com Shows County-by-County Cuts to Schools and Local Governments
Columbus, OH - Local elected officials like Denny York, Shelby County Auditor, and Mayor Timothy Theaker of Mansfield have something in common with education advocates like Barbara Shaner from the Ohio Association of School Business Officials and Melissa Cropper, a Library Media Specialist from Georgetown Exempted Village Schools and President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. They're all speaking up about the effects of the current state budget cuts.
CutsHurtOhio.com was unveiled in the wake of the Local Government Fund cuts going from 25% to 50%, and several leaders used the launch as a chance to share their concerns. All across Ohio, communities are feeling the pain after the $1.8 billion cut from K-12 education and $1 billion cut from local governments.
Shelby County's Auditor, Denny York said "We're expecting a 64% decrease in state funding from 2008 to 2013. As of this week, the balance in our General Fund is not sufficient to meet our next payroll." Mr. York went on to describe effects like "the local Agricultural Extension service and Senior Center cut 50%, community development cut 25%, and the County Park District and Historical Society cut 100%."
In Brown County, Melissa Cropper shared cuts to her school district, including "Over $650,000 in the past two years - primarily in the form of personnel cuts, along with the elimination of field trips and the Reading Recovery program. We're also now forced to hire inexperienced teachers instead of veteran teachers whenever an opening occurs. Georgetown is a small district so these impacts are significant."
In Mansfield, Mayor Theaker's comments show why CutsHurtOhio.com has the tagline "It was bad. Now it's worse." He said "The City of Mansfield has been declared by the State of Ohio to be in Fiscal Emergency. Just when we saw the light, ever so faint at the end of the tunnel, the state has extinguished the light, and we must now go to the voters of Mansfield and ask for their assistance to save our City. We will be placing a ¼% income tax increase on the November ballot to offset these reductions as well as an unforeseen cost increase for our housing of prisoners. This is not fair to our citizens but it is being dictated through state cuts."
Ms. Shaner added, "We expect the burden for funding schools to further shift to local taxpayers as districts are forced to go back to the voters for property tax levies. That, or educational offerings will continue to suffer. Students are already feeling the effects as education programs are eliminated, bus service is trimmed down and "pay-to-play" fees for extracurricular activities are instituted or increased. Many districts are operating at "bare bones" levels and we expect things to continue to get worse."
One Ohio Now advocates for a balanced approach to balancing the budget. Most fundamentally, however, the coalition believes that great public services lead to stronger communities and wants to ensure Ohioans have the programs and opportunities they deserve. On this last point there is widespread agreement - amongst Republicans and Democrats, in rural and urban areas - and widespread concern that the budget cuts will make it difficult, if not impossible, to meet community needs.
York explains, "I am not generally philosophically aligned with the positions of One Ohio Now. In general, I am in agreement with the current administration on many of their policies but I am of the opinion that the Governor entered office with certain seriously mistaken pre-conceived notions about local governments - particularly that they are generally inefficient, ineffective, and duplicative. In preparing his first biennial budget he built in this bias and the Legislature failed to effectively vet the proposals. They passed the Governor's budget without understanding the effects to follow for local communities."
"So far, we have been presented with a deaf ear in bringing these matters forward. We need to get that changed," York concludes.
Ms. Cropper talked primarily about the effects to her home district, but added "as President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, I am concerned about the bigger picture that extends beyond cuts to schools. When our communities suffer, our children suffer. We need to make sure that our communities and our schools have the funding they need to meet the needs of students, their families, and the community as a whole."