Funding cuts to impact county programs

Soil and Water could be among offices to take a hit

By Nikki Blankenship

With the current County budget issues, several county-funded programs including the Soil and Water Conservation District may be facing viability issues.

“They already got their annual allotment,” Commissioner Bryan Davis stated. “We give them their allotment because they get matching funds from the State. That was earlier this year before the MCO tax cut really got bad.”

Davis added that the annual allotment was provided to Soil and Water earlier this year before the State budget was passed which eliminated MCO tax funds, a decision that is expected to cost the County $2.1 million.

Davis added that Soil and Water did ask for additional funding from the Commissioners.

“We haven’t cut them,” Davis stated. “Their costs have gone up. Either that’s labor costs, or they’ve added a person. But, we haven’t cut them. That’s what people need to understand. If we cut them, they would be really in severe trouble because they get a match from the State.”

He added that while some Soil and Water board members approached him asking if the Commissioners could assist with additional funding, he informed them that at this time it is unknown as the County continues to see how MCO will impact County funds. Davis stated that the State has not developed a plan yet for dealing with this matter.

“There has been a proposed plan,” he stated.

He added that it is a Senate proposed plan which is not sufficient.

“In their (Soil and Water) case, they’re fortunate that they got funded before it started to look like this (MCO cut) was going to get really bad,” Davis commented. “This is the same discussion going on across the State.”

Davis continued to explain that as government bodies across Ohio continue to try to address recent state cuts, funding for non-general fund programs that are not mandated under Ohio Revised Code – programs such as Soil and Water – will likely face funding uncertainty.

“Like everybody else, we don’t know where we’re going to be. We don’t know what we’re going to do,” Commissioner Mike Crabtree stated.

He added that there are even elected offices that are no mandated as he made a pledge to do what he could to keep the County budget balanced.

“We don’t have the control that federal government does,” Crabtree added. “If they need more money they print it. The State of Ohio, if they need money, they take it from the counties. So, they balance their books on the backs of the counties.”

Davis explained that it is a difficult balance trying to continue to fund those things required by the State and those offices which provide valuable services to the public but are not mandated.

“You have your requirements, and you’re judged by the State on that,” Davis stated. “Then you have your extras, and you’re judged by the people on those. Soil and Water I can tell you right now that we support 110 percent their mission. They help our farmers. We know that the work that they do is vitally important to our farmers and ecology. I’ve seen them in action. But the bottom line is, if you don’t have it to give, you can’t give. And, if you give it, you will take it from somewhere else. In their case, we gave early so that they could get their State match. Do we want to see people laid off? Absolutely not. That is not what we want, but the reality is that may happen in some cases. Do we like it? We hate it, absolutely hate it. But we have a responsibility to the people of Scioto County to do what’s right and to fund specific offices. We don’t have a choice. That’s what we’re judged by, is keeping this county in the black. We can not go into the red. We’re doing the best we can. We’re trying to be as fair as we can be. And if we can do better we will.”

Soil and Water could be among offices to take a hit

By Nikki Blankenship

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.