LGF increase could be for real this time around

LISBON – Columbiana County’s allocation of Local Government Funding from the state may increase in 2015 for the first time in years.

Chief Deputy County Auditor John Goempel reported this week the state is estimating the county will receive $2.34 million in LGF money next year, which, if it holds, would represent an increase of $187,000 or 8 percent, over 2014.

Goempel emphasized this is an estimate because LGF allocations are a moving target since it is based on a percentage of state tax collections, which vary from month to month. For example, the county was projected to receive $2.24 million in LGF in 2014 – the same as the year before – but ended up being allocated $2.15 million.

Still, Goempel was heartened by the estimated increase. “It has to be the first increase in several years, at least,” he said.

More than several. 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. As a result, the amount of LGF funding has been steadily declining since.

County commissioners are entitled by law to half, with the rest distributed among the 30 cities, villages and townships in the county based on population, with every community guaranteed a $15,000 minimum.

As the biggest city, Salem would receive the largest amount – $93,791. At the other extreme, the village of Summitville, with just 135 residents, would receive $15,864.

This distribution formula was developed more than 10 years ago by the majority of communities, which have to renew it annually. The formula then has to be approved by the county budget commission, which consists of the auditor, treasurer and county prosecutor.

The budget commission met this week to approve the distribution plan for 2015 as well as the separate LGF distribution plan for the nine public libraries that operate completely or partially in the county. The libraries are to receive an estimated $3.35 million in 2015 compared to $3.07 million this year.

Like the communities, the libraries developed a distribution plan among themselves.