When it comes to state, county and local officials, the economy is the only story today.

When it comes to state, county and local officials, the economy is the only story today.

The primary challenge facing all levels of government is coping with declining tax revenues resulting from a troubled economy at a time when the demand for services continues to escalate.

State Rep. Dave Burke (R-Marysville) says the current state budget approval process has been slowed by a projected $3.2-billion deficit.

"In our most recent evaluation that we received, revenues were expected to drop," Burke said. "Unemployment in our state has reached 10.8 percent, which is one of the highest in the nation. When that occurs, of course, we have drains on unemployment and Medicare and other social services, so it does become a self-fulfilling prophecy for indebtedness."

Burke said Ohio legislators are required to pass a balanced budget and Gov. Ted Strickland has suggested sweeping cuts in state spending.

"I can't tell you every area in the state that is affected," he said, "but no man, woman or child is left untouched. Certainly when we look to balance the budget and move this state forward, we all are going to have to make difficult decisions."

Burke said the challenge for state lawmakers is about more than just paying the bills.

"It's about rebuilding our state," he said. "It's about using some federal dollars to the best of our ability to retool so when the economy does come around the state is in a position to benefit from growth and a national economic upturn."

County Commissioner Gary Lee said Union County was one of the last counties in Ohio to slide into the recession.

"As I attended state meetings, I heard horror stories six, eight, 10 months prior to us really feeling any signs of the recession," Lee said. "A lot of counties out there are really and truly on a day-to-day basis for income."

Lee said planning and belt-tightening by the commissioners and county department heads have somewhat lessened the impact locally.

"We certainly have significant challenges in this county because of our growth," he said. "But we are on strong financial footing. When we did our budget for 2009 we knew we were going to take a severe hit in revenue. We made plans for that and I'm pleased to tell you that as of this month we are on target for revenue for what we projected.

Marysville Mayor Chris Schmenk said growth over the past 20 years has dramatically increased the demand for safety services in her city.

Due to that growth, Schmenk finds herself in the difficult position of asking voters to approve a 0.5 percent increase in the city income tax in November in the midst of an economic downturn. If approved, that tax increase from 1.0 to 1.5 percent would generate $4.1-million a year to pay for new police, fire and municipal court facilities, with the remainder helping offset a growing city budget deficit.