County sees small LGF increase

LISBON -After years of cuts, Columbiana County’s allocation of state Local Government Fund money may actually increase next year, although just barely.

Chief Deputy County Auditor John Goempel said the state is estimating that county commissioners and cities, villages and townships are to receive a combined $2,245,506 in 2014- an $11,000 increase over this year.

While the increase is not much by the time commissioners get half and the rest is distributed among communities based on population, it is a change from the series of LGF cuts that have occurred over the past five years. The county’s combined allocation was $4.8 million as recently as 2008 before the state legislature began cutting LGF to address funding problems in the state budget.

Commissioners receive half of the county’s LGF allocation ($1.12 million) with the remaining $1.12 million distributed to the 30 cities, villages and townships according to population. Every community is guaranteed a $15,000 minimum.

For example, Salem, as the county’s largest community, receives the next largest share after commissioners – $88,246. At the other extreme, the village of Summitville, with just 135 residents, will receive $803 over the $15,000 minimum.

State Rep. Nick Barborak, D-Lisbon, voted against the new state budget that was passed by the legislature, saying it is shifting the funding burden to communities by cutting state funding to communities. He suggested at a Yellow Creek Township trustees meeting last week that the new state budget included more LGF cuts, but Yellow Creek’s 2014 allocation is $27,755, an increase of $11.

Barborak was unaware the county’s allocation would remain unchanged but he said overall LGF funding was definitely cut in the new two-year state budget, which took effect July 1. “It doesn’t always translate year to year,” he said of the cuts. “If you do a side-by-side comparison (in budgets) there is a $200 million reduction in LGF.”

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the new state budget continues LGF funding at about the same level as previously but eliminated the estate tax, which benefited cities, villages and townships to the tune of $250 million per year. The budget also accelerates the phase-out of the personal property tax on businesses, which will cost communities another $300 million in tax revenue.

Randy Cole, a policy analyst for the state budget office, has said there are more than 40 separate funding line items in the state budget that result in 85 percent of state spending benefiting local governments and schools. He said the allocations in those line items will increase from $13.7 billion in 2010 to a projected $14.2 billion in 2015.

Cole said the philosophy behind these moves is to create a state economy that will attract new businesses and encourage existing businesses to expand, with the result being more local tax revenue that will exceed what is being cut by the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.