Area lawmaker making push to restore funding

MINGO JUNCTION – State Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, knows he has an uphill battle to get state funding restored to local communities. But he was preaching to the choir when local elected officials began talking about the difficulties they are having without the money.

Cera chose Mingo Junction to announce Monday he is co-sponsoring a bill in the Ohio House to restore local government funding to the 2005 level. He was joined by several local and county officials.

Cera said cities and villages in the county have lost $776,112 in local government money since 2005. County government lost $799,373 and townships, $221,649.

According to Cera, Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled state Legislature cut local government funding to force governments to work together and join in on services, especially while the state was facing its own budget crisis.

But Cera said there is a billion dollar surplus, some of which has been proposed to go the school districts. He said the state should give local governments back some of the money lost since 2005.

The worst cuts in local government funding came in the past two years, a time when local governments were feeling other revenue cuts because of the recession.

He said local governments are making cuts to services because of the dwindling revenue.

Cera said Mingo Junction police officers took a pay cut just so officers can stay on the street, and Steubenville is struggling to keep cops on the streets.

“We are talking about keeping citizens safe,” Cera said.

Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci said, “It is a hard struggle to locally come up with the funding to protect the citizens. We could talk about sharing services but that only goes so far. We need the basic services for citizens.”

Mingo Junction Mayor Ron DiCarlo said the village’s “back is against the wall” with the funding cuts it has faced in the past several years, mainly due to the closing of the RG Steel plant.

Richmond Mayor Harry Thomas said local communities have levies but they are based on property values from the 1970s or so and don’t bring in a lot of revenue.

Mingo Junction Police Chief Steve Maguschak said the village has lost 75 percent of its revenue in the past three years.

“It has been absolutely devastating to the community. We try to be fiscally responsible. But what if we can’t provide the services to the hardworking people,” the police chief said.

Maguschak said he believes municipalities combining services will only create bigger government, something he doesn’t see as a cost savings.

County Auditor Patrick Marshall said the grassroots elected officials need to put pressure on Columbus to restore some of the local government funding.

“This money provides necessary services. It is not just cream on top,” he said.

Cera said it is unfortunate that local government is talking about shutting off streetlights and telling residents they can pay for the lights. He said these are the same people that have been hit with electric cost increases.

Cera said there are eight co-sponsors to his bill to restore some of the local government funding, all Democrats. He said it will be difficult to get the measure passed since Republicans control both houses of the Legislature.