About the Ohio state budget's provision for a Local Government Innovation Program intended to encourage collaboration, sharing and merging:
This is not to say that the states where the most notable cuts have taken place this year are entirely dismissing localities’ needs. Legislators in Ohio, for instance, created a $45 million “Local Government Innovation Program” aimed at encouraging local governments to pursue cost-saving efficiencies. It came with scanty operating instructions, however, and doesn’t take effect until next year. “We’re in limbo,” says Jon Honeck, director of public policy and advocacy at the Center for Community Solutions, a Cleveland-based research and planning organization for surrounding Cuyahoga County. “There’s a lot of rhetoric about reaching greater efficiencies and collaboration, but that in itself is not going to keep cities from service cuts.”And a reality check:
Perhaps the best indication of what lies in store comes from Michigan, where towns and cities have had years to get accustomed to state budget cuts. “There’s lots of bad parts of being in a recession seven or eight years ahead of everyone else,” says Dan Gilmartin, executive director of the Michigan Municipal League, “but you do get ahead and start reinventing.”
So, for instance, the city of Troy, an upscale suburb of Detroit, has taken $16 million in cuts from the state over the past decade, which amounts to two-thirds of its police budget and more than its entire road maintenance budget. After much public discussion, the town’s community center raised its fees to become self-supporting; other services were handed off to volunteer organizations; and its library just won a ballot measure to raise taxes to fund its activities. Robin Beltramini, Troy’s mayor, expects this sort of public debate over which services ought to remain part of the city’s portfolio — and which can be picked up by nonprofits, businesses, and others — to continue.
“Our citizens expect us to have a police department that catches purse snatchers at the mall and catches speeders through our subdivisions. Our fire department still has to have trucks and training. We have hundreds of miles of roads that must be repaired and maintained,” she says. “When you try to keep those services as whole as possible but you’ve lost millions in state shared revenue and your property values have dropped, you simply can’t keep doing everything you did.”