COLUMBUS, OH – The Ohio Mayors Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of mayors in over two dozen of Ohio’s largest cities, held a press conference call today outlining the dire circumstances facing Ohio’s communities and pressed Congress to provide immediate fiscal relief for state and local governments. The economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has begun causing layoffs and other service reductions in cities across Ohio.
“Ohio cities are uniquely vulnerable to the impending economic tsunami because our communities rely primarily on income tax revenue,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. “If Congress fails to include immediate fiscal relief to cities, critical frontline services could be impacted and Ohio’s economic recovery will be threatened.”
A recent report showed that four out of the five cities nationwide that could be hit the hardest are in Ohio (Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, and Cleveland). A national survey from over 2,500 cities, including a dozen Ohio cities, released this week by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities, indicated that most cities will need to consider drawing down reserves, cutting safety services, and raising taxes as potential options to address the fiscal crisis brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.
“Our economic recovery will be slower than molasses if Ohio cities have to spend the next five years cutting services and increasing taxes to make up for this sharp drop in revenues,” said Lancaster Mayor David Scheffler. “By providing fiscal relief now for state and local governments, we will have a quicker economic recovery when the public health crisis subsides.”
Cities across the state have already begun furloughing employees and planning for critical service reductions. Cincinnati is projecting an $18 million budget gap and has already furloughed nearly 1,700 municipal employees. Other cities across Ohio have also furloughed employees and begun preparing for significant reductions to their budgets. Akron, Dayton, and Parma have also announced various reductions and employee furloughs. Toledo is expected to make a similar announcement today.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said that “cities are dealing with a double-edged sword as costs for safety services increase during this pandemic, while budget revenue drops off a cliff.”
Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter has announced layoffs and other budget reduction strategies. “Mayors are faced with difficult decisions right now just to maintain critical services, but if we want to get through this and start thinking about recovery, Congress must provide fiscal support for cities now,” DeGeeter said.
The recently passed CARES Act provided some initial funding for state and local governments. However, the vast majority of that funding will go to large counties and cities across the country. The Ohio Mayors Alliance is advocating for direct emergency stabilization funding to cities in the next federal aid package that is currently being considered in Congress. The Ohio Mayors Alliance recently sent a letter to members of Congress urging support for direct emergency funding for frontline city services.
“It is my belief that the decision on how to best utilize any federal funding should be made at the level of government closest to the people it impacts,” said Findlay Mayor Christina Muryn. “I appreciate Congress recognizing the vast impact this pandemic is having on our communities and welcome their support but local leaders need to have the ability to use the funds how we see they will have the most positive impact.”
“Ohio cities face a unique challenge because our budgets are supported by income tax instead of property tax like most other cities across the country,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. “We’ve been communicating that to our federal partners and business leaders because we know the private sector can’t recover quickly if the public sector is mired in budget cuts and instability.”
“Municipal stabilization funding will provide a critical bridge for cities to help us through the economic downturn, and it will buy time for revenues to climb back,” said Kettering Mayor Don Patterson. “Without this stopgap, cities will have to make deep cuts that will have reverberating impacts across our regional economies, and it will take us longer to recover once this public health threat subsides.”