GOPC's Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, and Associate Director, Alison Goebel, presented to the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission yesterday, providing an overview of local government throughout the state.
Highlights from the presentation are included below, cited in the Hannah Report article, "Constitutional Modernization Commission Stops Recording Hearings after Questions Arise":
Brachman said, “Ohio’s current local government structure impacts sustainable growth: communities and taxpayers face the legacy costs of a 19th century structure in a 21st century economy.” She said, “Ohio’s population growth is stagnating … [while] fragmented and duplicative local governments prevent effective economic competition on [the] world market.”
Goebel said Ohio has 3,702 local government jurisdictions, including 88 counties, 940 municipalities, 1,308 townships and 614 traditional school districts. Ohio has the eighth highest number of local governments per square mile in the U.S. In addition, there are over 4,000 special district governments, including 75 metropolitan housing authorities, 90 park districts, 97 airports, 145 joint fire or ambulance districts, 165 municipal and county courts, 251 library districts, and 450 senior centers.
Ohio is the 34th highest for state taxes, and has the 20th highest local tax burden in the U.S., said Goebel. In 2011, monthly payroll expenditures for local government in Ohio were $1.82 billion, while state government payroll was $0.65 billion. While the $157.49 per capita cost of local government in Ohio was slightly below the national average of $160.58 per capita, it was 29 percent above the peer state average for Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Illinois.
Responsibilities and powers of local governments vary by type, said Goebel. Municipalities have home rule powers. Townships are a “creature of statute” but can have limited home rule powers. Most counties are governed by general rules of the state, while there are two charter counties (Summit County in 1976, and Cuyahoga County in 2010) with home rule powers. In one pair of graphics, she showed that there are more townships than municipalities with populations between 500 and 10,000.
Goebel said GOPC studies have found that successful collaborations and efforts to become more efficient often require a leader or steward (such as a metropolitan planning organization, education service center, county engineer, county executive, county commissioners or major city); such efforts are often prompted by economic changes; and comparing local governments and measuring efficiency can be difficult due to the lack of a set standard reporting instrument for a detailed breakdown of local government expenditures.
Brachman said that intergovernmental collaboration can result in economies of scale, improved government accountability, equalization of service quantity and quality, coordinated economic competitiveness, and the ability to retain local community character and flavor.
Brachman said loss of population, an aging population and failure to attract Gen-Y are demographics of concern for Ohio.
The invitation to present to the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission further confirms GOPC’s expertise in Ohio’s local government structures as well as the value of our data-driven, impartial analyses of the current state of affairs.