Lancaster’s dilemma: Kasich budget in a nutshell


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In case you haven’t been following the coverage of the Lancaster city budget troubles, it’s worth catching up. The story fairly well encapsulates what the Governor’s budget is all about – cuts in state aid to local governments that are already facing declining tax revenues, impacts to vital public services like fire and police, job losses and tax increases at the local level.

Lancaster, a city of 37,000 in Fairfield County, southeast of Columbus, has a general fund budget of $23.6 million in 2011. Thanks to declining income tax revenue and cuts from the state, the City faces a $1.25 million shortfall in 2011 and $2.5 million in 2012. The Mayor has proposed a plan that would put a .25 percent income tax increase on the November ballot and eliminate 25% of the city’s fire department, nearly 10% of the police department and cut several other positions in city government.

One of the city’s three fire houses will close and the number of medics will be reduced from three to two per shift, moves that all agree will drive up response times in emergencies. The tax increase is also facing stiff competition on the November ballot, with voters also facing property tax levies for street repair and schools. Voters only recently approved an income tax levy in 2005 to expand fire services.

All in all, the City — run by Republicans, by the way — is faced with an unappealing choice of reducing services or raising taxes. And voters will be confronted with the prospect of three tax issues on the fall ballot.  Next time you hear the Governor and GOP say that this budget was balanced without tax increases, or local governments simply need to show fiscal discipline and do more with less, keep Lancaster in mind.

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