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Duncan: 'It is time to give some of it back'

By JOE CENTERS • Sep 13, 2018 at 9:00 PM

Norwalk council will vote Tuesday on a resolution to be sent to Ohio officials asking them to share some of the state’s surplus money.

In part, the resolution asks Gov. John Kasich to share the $147 surplus in the state budget with local communities

Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan said he already has sent a letter to state officials, along with the resolution. 

“I’m writing today to urge you to invest this year’s projected budget surplus in Ohio’s municipalities,” he wrote. “You recently proposed using the projected surplus of $147 million to fund an income tax withholding reduction and an additional $68 million to max out the state’s rainy-day fund. This revenue would be more useful if it was returned to local governments.”

The letter also was sent to state Rep. Dick Stein (R-Norwalk), U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and Sen. Sherrod Brown.

“This is through our organization, the Ohio Municipal League, to send these letters,” Duncan said.

“It has affected everybody. Basically, what he (Kasich) told us is ‘I am not raising taxes. If your people want something you can raise your taxes to pay for it.’

“I understand the state got cut from the federal. The states passed it on to the local communities. We’ve truly done a lot with little. We have done a lot of cutting the last 10 years beginning when Sue (Lesch) was mayor. You can only cut so long. When you cut employees there is only so much services you can get done. We want to accomplish as much as we can with what we have.”

Does the mayor think anything will come of the letters? 

“In my office when I hear complaints from three or four different people about the same thing we take it seriously,” Duncan said. “I hope they will listen.”

Kasich is finishing his time as Ohio governor, unable to run again due to term limits. Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray, along with alternative candidates, are competing for the job in November’s general election.

If DeWine wins, will that make a difference?

“Mike DeWine has been asked about restoring local funds,” Duncan said. “We have to ask those questions. From the first time I bought it up to him to the sixth or seventh time I have seen a change in attitude. 

“When you have $2.7 billion in the rainy day fund, it is time to give some of it back. I’m sure both men running have heard the same thing.”

Duncan said if the state gave back the money in an income tax reduction it would mean just pennies to everyone. By giving the money back to municipalities, he said “it could be huge for us. It could mean another employee for the city.”

When Kasich took over as governor there was less than $1 in the state’s rainy-day fund. He has built that up to $2.7 billion in his eight years, but many, including Duncan, said the governor played a shell game and just took that money away from local communities.

“Less than a dollar wasn’t good,” Duncan said. “But he has enough now to share with us.”

Here is what the resolution says:

“A resolution strongly urging the Ohio governor and members of the Ohio general assembly to invest the state budget surplus in municipalities.

“Being duly authorized by the charter of the city of Norwalk, the mayor of the city of Norwalk, does hereby respectfully propose the following legislation:

“Whereas, the mayor and council have been advised of Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s proposal to use the projected state of Ohio’s budget surplus of $147 million at the end of the biennium to fund an income tax withholding reduction and bring the state’s rainy-day fund to its maximum legal limit; and

“Whereas, the Ohio General Assembly has repeatedly decreased funding and revenue sharing in recent years by way of significantly reducing the local government fund, eliminating the estate tax and phasing out the tangible personal property tax; and

“Whereas, these reductions have resulted in a significant loss of revenue to the city of Norwalk; and

“Whereas, this sudden revenue loss has made it increasingly difficult to provide basic services, rebuild infrastructure, and bolster public safety services to fight the opioid epidemic; and

“Whereas, when municipalities, experience success in fostering safe communities, building sound infrastructure, and increasing economic development, the state of Ohio reaps the benefits as well:

“Therefore, be it resolved, by the council of the city of Norwalk, Huron County, Ohio, to wit:

“Section 1: That the Ohio General Assembly should distribute the budget surplus revenue to Ohio’s municipalities at the end of the biennium, ensuring that these local communities are able to provide crucial services and improvements in infrastructure and public safety.

“Section 2: That this Council does hereby declare its opposition to Gov. Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly depositing the state budget surplus into the rainy-day fund and an income tax withholding reduction.

“Wherefore, this resolution will be in full force and effect form and after the earliest period allowed by law.”

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