Pivot: cut cities, not services.

The Coronavirus Crisis is going to cause havoc with municipal budgets that run off income tax. With huge swaths of newly unemployed not kicking in to the local government coffers, most cities are tightening their belts and reassessing where they allocate funds.

Some early projections show cities may lose 10% to 20% of 2020 projected income tax revenue.

“We’re looking at our budget issues that are coming down pretty heavy right now,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, whose city has asked department heads to look at making 18% cuts across the board.

The income tax revenue losses brought on by job cuts at businesses during the coronavirus pandemic is expected to hit Ohio cities especially hard because those taxes constitute up to 80% of general operating funds, according to the Ohio Municipal League.

Whaley and Kettering’s Don Patterson are part of a group of Ohio mayors who say cuts in local public safety forces will be needed if cities do not receive COVID-19 rescue funds from Congress in the near future.

“While our individual situations are unique, they’re common,”

Patterson said of Ohio cities. “One of us may have 70 police officers. The other one may have 500. The problem is we’re all faced with the same problem.”

Source: Cities sharpening budget knives – Dayton Daily News

While business owners are adapting and finding new ways to survive the new social distanced world, cities are still believing that they have some god given right to exist, while the rest of us suffer the coronavirus consequences.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for a pivot, one that’s long overdue. It’s time to thin the herd of local municipal overhead. Do we really need 54 jurisdictions? 17 police chiefs plus a sheriff, 7 municipal courts and their crappy websites, 24 city managers, 10 building inspection departments, and the list goes on (all numbers pulled out of my ass but, you get the picture). Do the lines on the map still make sense? Why are Fairborn, Beavercreek and Bellbrook in Greene County and Springboro in Warren, when Montgomery is mostly urban and all are connected to Dayton? Why do urban townships exist? Do we really believe Miami Township isn’t a city? And, let’s not even discuss the insular school districts with their constant grabs for levy money- while some districts are smaller than the high school I went to and one smaller than a single elementary school (Jefferson Township, I’m talking about you).

Suppose, we waved a magic wand post covid 19 and all the police forces were unifed under a single elected Sheriff? One department, one dispatch, one type of squad car, one kind of training, one SWAT team, one hostage negotiation team, one jail, one pay scale, and a lot less chiefs and a lot more Indians? We’d have a force of approximately 1500 officers. One chief. Instead, City Managers, who won’t show up at your door when you have a problem, are protecting themselves and their existence by threatening to cut safety forces.

This is unacceptable. This is why we started “Reaconstructing Dayton” 3 years ago to evaluate the costs of the multiple banana republics in Montgomery County, to make it clear why we’re one of the highest taxed communities in the state while getting very little bang for our buck.

We’ve got so many political offices to fill, that some don’t even have candidates running for them. Others, run unopposed. And the saddest fact is, most of these organizations are run by politicians who are far from our best or brightest (following national trends). Why, in the middle of a pandemic, would the city of Huber Heights squander $2.8M of the taxpayers money on a defunct shopping center, while they are facing huge revenue drops at their last boondoggle- The Rose, which won’t open it’s doors for up to 2 years.

Even the patchwork maze for collecting the varying income taxes for all these entities is expensive and frustrating to the businesses in the region. My office manager couldn’t even find the link to the City of Dayton income tax collection site on the city site, and curses the city for a portal that makes paying the tax almost as painful as the tax itself.

Thanks to recent funding of Reconstructing Dayton by the insurance companies for Dayton Metro Libraries former security contractor, we’ll be back at working on gathering up to date data on the real cost of our political overhead in the region. Due to the Coronavirus, it’s also become harder to get Public Records Requests filled in a timely manner. Just realize, if we didn’t have so many jurisdictions, how much easier it would be to keep an eye on where and how your tax dollars are being mismanaged by folks who really, shouldn’t be trusted.

We’re also working on a system to ensure all voters have a way to research and fully understand every office, candidate, elected official, jurisdiction, process for getting elected, process for getting recalled and best of all, adding an advocate to fight for you when you believe that the Sunshine laws, or other laws regarding public office holders are broken. We believe every county needs a Chief Ethics Officer a lot more than either an elected county engineer or coroner.

If this project sounds like something you, or your organization would like to support, please consider donating to Reconstructing Dayton. We can’t afford to keep the status quo and the coming increases in taxes to pay for decreased services when what we really need is a smarter framework for governing.

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