$3 million for Portsmouth in bill

By Frank Lewis - [email protected]

The city of Portsmouth could receive over $3 million if a bill before the State Legislature passes. House Bill 508, which has passed the House, would provide a financial supplement, that would be used to make distributions to 31 political subdivisions which are currently on the Auditor of State’s fiscal caution, watch or emergency list.

Funding set aside in the bill includes $3,229,559 for the city of Portsmouth. While the appropriations contained in the bill are for amounts in 2016 and 2017, those specified for Portsmouth would be strictly for 2016.

The Portsmouth City Council has on its legislative agenda for Monday, Sept. 12, 2016 a resolution in support of HB 508 which it says would provide – “much needed assistance to the city of Portsmouth, Ohio and to 30 other communities in the state of Ohio who are on the Auditor of State’s fiscal distress lists.

Among the wording in the resolution is a statement that says – “Whereas, one reason the City of Portsmouth has arrived at fiscal watch status is due to cuts to the Local Government Funds (LGF). H.B. 508 would provide a onetime infusion to the city in the amount of $3,229,559 which is the amount we would have received under the LGF allocation level from Fiscal Year 2008.”

The resolution says that while the bill will not make the city whole, it will allow it to consider reversing some of the cuts to services it has had to make, such as restoring the number of service department employees depleted by retirements, much needed repairs to critical infrastructure, and the repair or replacement of dilapidated equipment to name a few needs.

Portsmouth City Auditor Trent Williams said the cuts in funding from the state have put a dent in the city’s budget.

“It was about $800,000 from local government funding, $200,000 from personal property tax and about $400,000 a year in estate tax,” Williams said. “So the total on that was about $1.4 million.”

The resolution continues – “Whereas, the budget surplus fund is often called the Rainy Day Fund, and it is raining in Portsmouth, Ohio. We wish to tap into this Rainy Day Fund in an attempt to restore basic public services to Ohioans.”

Williams said he is taking a wait and see approach before commenting on the legislation, but said – “If it’s that kind of money into our economy here in Portsmouth, that would be very substantial.”

Portsmouth City Manager Derek K. Allen is also approaching the subject with caution choosing to deal with the issue should the legislation actually pass. He did say it would not change his current plans to get the city back into financial shape, the job he set his mind to when he was hired.

“If we were able to get that kind of money, I’m very conservative in our spending and trying to get us back onto solid financial ground, so I’m more likely to put it away and hold most of it and not spend it,” Allen said. “But I don’t get too excited until we actually get it.”

In addition to the city of Portsmouth, two other Scioto County entities are also earmarked to receive funds for 2016 should the bill pass the legislature. Bloom Township would receive $15,925, Rarden Township – $4,327 and Rush Township would receive $46,253.

By Frank Lewis

[email protected]

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.