Delaware City Council
Leaders grill Brenner on state funding
Rep. Brenner says lost city funds not likely to return
Delaware City Council members pressed state Rep. Andrew Brenner on issues of state funding when he visited the council chambers last week.
Brenner (R-Powell) took questions from council members at a meeting Monday, Feb. 11, after briefing them on current activity at the Statehouse and discussing upcoming legislation.
Councilman Joe DiGenova and City Manager Tom Homan wanted to talk money.
This winter, Delaware officials worked to balance the budget after seeing major reductions to state funding, including cuts to the Local Government Fund totaling $408,000 in 2012 and an additional cut of $186,000 for Delaware in 2013.
The cuts were part of a biennial budget passed in 2011 that slashed funding for local governments in Ohio by 50 percent.
Homan said the state has some obligation to make good on Delaware's lost funds for breaking what he called a "pact" with local governments.
"The history is clear that this wasn't a grant program. It was a way to provide additional state revenue to localities, and I think we all shared that sacrifice in 2011," Homan said.
He added: "To say we're never going to see any more of it, I don't think is an adequate public-policy response."
Homan suggested the state's funding formulas could be re-evaluated to restore the funding over time.
Brenner wasn't hopeful about the chances for legislation to restore the funds.
"I don't see that increased at all in the near future," he said.
Brenner said Gov. John Kasich is instead focused on boosting Ohio's economy by lowering taxes. The bulk of the state's budget still goes to local entities, he said. Kasich also is pushing grants promoting increased use of shared services, Brenner said.
Legislators could look into other options to increase funding for local governments, he added, citing higher fees as one possibility.
"I agree that if the state is going to take this away, I think there are some other things we should look at to allow more flexibility at the local level," Brenner said.
Meanwhile, Councilman Andrew Brush told Brenner the state should increase the cap on driver's license renewal fees.
Currently, cities can't charge more than $20 for license renewals. Brush said that hasn't been raised since 1988 and suggested an increase would help the city pay for road maintenance.
"Our road maintenance is struggling," Brush said. "It's costly and we're doing the best we can with it, but we're struggling to keep up."
The maintenance problems are exacerbated by Delaware's abundance of state routes, Brush said.
The state offers funds to resurface those roads but not for base repairs.
Raising the cap on fees to $25 or $30 would be a substantial boost, he said. The fee is a "user tax" for motorists who use the roadways, he said.
Brenner said one solution could be to ask the federal government to return transportation funds back to Ohio "dollar for dollar." He said last year, he drafted a resolution for that purpose.
"The state of Pennsylvania actually receives more dollars back than they paid to the federal government. We receive about 90 cents back for every dollar we send," he said.
That totals $200 million to $300 million in lost revenue annually for Ohio, Brenner said.
He also briefly reviewed proposed and upcoming state legislation, including bills that would eliminate Ohio's prevailing wage regulations and ban Internet cafes, which were flagged last year by legislators who said they offer gambling opportunities while dodging regulations.