OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the top five things you need to know from the past week:
· As we near the annual celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, we encourage our members to take the time to watch this video HERE from Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks, presented by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission. Dir. Marchbanks speaks to the activism, words and the “lasting moral guidance” of the “deep-thinking scholar and iconic activist”, and how to honor Dr. King by being of service to someone less fortunate. The League office will be closed in observance of the holiday.
· The Ohio Senate has released its preliminary schedule for 2021. Senate sessions are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, February 3. No sessions are scheduled for July and August and are scheduled to resume on Wednesday, September 8. The last session for 2021 is scheduled for Wednesday, December 15. You can access the full Senate session calendar HERE.
· Budget Watch: One of the two preliminary state operating budget requests submitted by the Auditor of State would cause increased auditing costs for local governments. The proposal in question would cut the Auditor of State’s budget by 10%. The cost of this cut would be passed to local governments, who would see the charge for audits go up from $41 per hour to $54 per hour by FY23. Auditor Faber has stated that he does not believe now is the time to significantly increase audio costs for local governments and schools. Read more in the article below.
· Cities and villages can mark their calendars for the National Day of Racial Healing next Tuesday, January 19. Local leaders can join the program online at 3 p.m. for essential and timely conversations on racial healing, equity and justice. The program is hosted by the Kellogg Foundation’s Truth Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT), which also offers toolkits and other recourses to bring racial healing to local communities. For more information or to download the toolkit, click HERE.
· Governor DeWine has signed a proclamation mobilizing the Ohio National Guard in the anticipation of armed protests over the weekend and during the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday. He stated there will be a “significant presence” of the Ohio National Guard and State Highway Patrol troopers in Columbus. The Ohio Statehouse and state government buildings will be closed Sunday through Wednesday. The Governor is also increasing the number of National Guard members being deployed to Washington, D.C., from 200 to 700 at the request of the federal government.
· Ohio is continuing its phased-in vaccination rollout. This week, each county health department, in partnership with their local emergency management agency and vaccine providers, released vaccine distribution plans. Yesterday, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) launched a tool on coronavirus.ohio.gov so citizens looking for a vaccine provider can search by zip code or county, though it will not be updated in real-time. It is critical that those eligible to receive a vaccine consult local sources to determine up-to-date vaccine availability. Read more in the article below.
LEAGUE’S FIRST VIRTUAL 2021 TAX SEMINAR A SUCCESS
The League wants to thank everyone who attended the virtual 2021 Tax Seminar this week. We also want to thank all of our presenters who were integral in making the seminar a success by answering attendee questions and providing tax administrators across the state with important and timely information on Ohio’s municipal income tax. Attendees participated in data-packed presentations on the impact of HB 197 to withholding, how municipalities can handle revenue projections, the Attorney General’s collection program and many other critical topics for local tax administrators.
For those who attended the conference, we will be sending out the slides and recordings of the webinars next week. We thank all attendees and presenters for a wonderful conference and we are grateful that even though we were unable to meet in person, we were still able to hold the seminar virtually and provide an important educational opportunity for municipal income tax administrators across the state.
AUDITOR OF STATE BUDGET PROPOSAL COULD PASS COSTS DOWN TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
Ohio’s state agencies and statewide offices are submitting preliminary budget request to the Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) ahead of the release of the DeWine Administration’s budget proposal sometime next month. OBM is asking each department and office for two budget scenarios.
One of the proposed budget scenarios from the Auditor of State’s office could lead to a substantial increase in costs to local governments. The first request submitted by the Auditor’s office would increase GRF funding for their annual budget by 2.5% to $10.1 million in FY22 and then by 0.7% to approximately $30.5 million in FY23. The second proposal would cut their budget by 10%, which would be $29.9 million in FY21, then $26.9 million in each subsequent year.
If the 10% cut is enacted, the Auditor’s annual budget would fall from $91.8 million in FY21 to $87.2 million per year. The cost of this cut would be passed to local governments, who would see the charge for audits go up from $41 per hour to $54 per hour by FY 2023. Auditor Faber has stated that he does not believe now is the time to significantly increase audio costs for local governments and schools.
Here are the other budget proposals released this week:
· The Ohio Treasurer of State’s office has submitted a budget request of $33.4 million each year, with $11.3 of the overall budget coming from the General Revenue Fund (GRF). This would be a reduction in GRF funding for the office by 20%. The office did not submit an alternative budget proposal with either flat or increased GRF funding.
· The Ohio Secretary of State’s budget proposal would reduce GRF funding for their annual budget by 50%, excluding debt service, starting in FY21 and extending over the biennium. Under this proposal, the office would receive $13.4 million in FY22-23 in GRF funding, reduced from an estimated $13.5 million in FY21. This would reduce the office’s overall budget from $69.3 million in FY21 to $36.9 million in FY22, then $36 million in FY23.
· The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) submitted two budget requests. The first would cut funding by 10% from an estimated $30.4 billion in FY21 to $28.4 billion in FY22 and then $29 billion in FY23. The second proposal was for $31.8 billion in FY 22 and $32.25 billion in FY23.
· The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is requesting $904.5 million each year over the biennium. The second budget proposal would reduce the department’s budget by 10% to approximately $857 million each year. Both budget requests include over $600 million each year in federal funding. ODH Dir. Himes has stated that the department’s reliance on federal funding has led to instability in funding and delivery of services as well as forcing more focus on federal rather than state health priorities.
· The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s (ODA) first preliminary budget request is for a 13.4% increase in GRF funding totaling $54.4 million in both FY22 and FY33. This would increase the department’s overall budget by 6% million to $115.9 million in FY22, then by 0.8% to $166.9 million in FY23. The second request could decrease GRF funding by 10% in FY22 to $43 million, which would reduce the overall budget by 6% to $102.8 million in both FY22 and FY23. The department is also requesting $17 million each year of the biennium for the Soil and Water Phosphorus Program.
GOVERNOR DEWINE SIGNS BILLS WITH MUNICIPAL IMPACT
Over the past week, Governor DeWine has signed several more bills passed during the 133rd General Assembly Lame Duck session. Here are the bills he signed that will impact municipalities:
· HB 295 – Electric Scooters. Sponsored by Rep. Hoops (R – Napoleon), allows scooters are on bicycle paths and lanes; however, local governments and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources are able to regulate their use. It also sets a statewide 20 mile-per-hour speed limit for scooters, among other regulations that apply to riders.
· HB 308 – PTSD Coverage. Sponsored by Rep. Patton (R - Strongsville), concerns workers' compensation and disability retirement for peace officers, firefighters, and emergency medical workers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) arising from employment without an accompanying physical injury. The bill was previously amended to establish a PTSD fund under the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) and task the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund with conducting a study to be complete by October 2021 regarding the needs and administration of the fund.
· SB 259 –TIF Agreements. Sponsored by Sen. Sykes (D - Akron), would authorize the conveyance of state-owned real property and to specify that tax increment financing minimum service payment obligation agreements are enforceable against subsequent property owners. Previously, the bill was amended to require a public entity to allocate federal income tax deductions to a public building designer for installing energy-efficient commercial building fixtures. It was also amended to allow a municipality to publish notice online for certain special assessments and increased the estimated cost of certain special assessments from $250 to $500, mandating that a municipality notify affected property owners of this change.
· HB 450 – Fiscal Officers. Sponsored by Rep. Stephens (R - Kitts Hill), would require fiscal officers of certain political subdivisions to provide certificates of transition to their successors when leaving office. The bill also modifies language regarding the duty of a treasurer of a board of education to deliver to the treasurer's successor all papers related to the affairs of the district, and removes the eligibility requirements for political subdivisions to receive agreed-upon procedure audits from the Auditor of State, while continuing the agreed-upon procedure audits under rules adopted by the Auditor of State.
OHIO COVID-19 RESPONSE UPDATE
· As of Thursday afternoon, Ohio is reporting 807,293 cases of coronavirus, 9,90 deaths, 42,491 hospitalizations and 6,289 ICU admissions.
· Hamilton County has turned purple under Ohio’s Public Health Advisory Alert System. Clermont and Lorain counties are both on the watchlist. A county-by-county breakdown outlining the presence of COVID-19 in all of Ohio's 88 counties can be found on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System's website HERE.
Vaccine Rollout Timeline:
· THIS WEEK: The Ohio Department of Health received information from the federal government on Ohio's vaccine allotment for the upcoming week. Information was then communicated to local health departments. Each county health department, in partnership with their local emergency management agency and vaccine providers, communicated vaccine distribution plans with the media and the public on Wednesday and Thursday.
· THIS WEEK: On Thursday, the Ohio Department of Health launched a tool on coronavirus.ohio.gov to assist citizens looking for a provider that has been allotted vaccines. The tool will be searchable by zip code or county, but it will not be updated in real-time. It is critical that those eligible to receive a vaccine consult local sources to determine up-to-date vaccine availability.
· WEEK OF JANUARY 18: Vaccine providers will begin receiving their first allotment of vaccines for those ages 80 and older. Vaccines will be delivered on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Each provider will begin administering vaccines the day after they receive their shipment. All vaccines must be distributed within seven days.
· WEEK OF JANUARY 25: Vaccinations are anticipated to begin for those ages 75 and up following the same process outlined above. Vaccinations will also be available to those with severe congenital, developmental, or early-onset medical disorders. Additional information on how these individuals can choose to receive their vaccines is forthcoming.
· WEEK OF FEBRUARY 1: Vaccinations are anticipated to begin for those ages 70 and up following the same process outlined above.
· WEEK OF FEBRUARY 8: Vaccinations are anticipated to begin for those ages 65 and up following the same process outlined above.
· Governor DeWine announced that Ohio is imminently close to completing the administration of the first round of COVID-19 vaccines in skilled nursing facilities. Ohio partnered with four pharmacies through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership in distribution of the vaccine to skilled nursing facilities. These facilities are a part of Phase 1A. Within the Federal Pharmacy Partnership, Ohio, with 3.6% of the U.S population, has administered more than 8% of the vaccines in this program nationwide. This is above the anticipated pace of administering the vaccine.
Business and Employment Update:
· Lt. Governor Husted announced that Southern Ohio Communication Services, Inc., in collaboration with JobsOhio, Ohio Southeast Economic Development (OhioSE) and Pike County Economic & Community Development, plans to invest $3.8 million to provide high-speed Internet service over 64 miles to 1,300 residential and business customers in southern Ohio. Learn more about the announcement here.
· Additionally, 12 partnerships have been awarded for a total of $2.5 million for the Industry Sector Partnership Award Grant Program. The selected partnerships are located in various regions across Ohio and focus on multiple in-demand industry sectors, including healthcare, information technology, manufacturing, construction and transportation. Learn more about the Industry Sector Partnership Grant by visiting Workforce.Ohio.gov/ISP
· Lt. Governor Husted announced the community investment from General Motors as part of the Ohio Tax Credit Authority recommendation. The agreed investment of $12 million includes:
· $5 million to Youngstown State University for workforce development in partnership with Gateway Community College, and funding for the YSU Energy Storage Innovation and Training Center.
· $3 million to the Village of Lordstown for the design and construction of a new water tower.
· $2.5 million to the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments for local infrastructure improvements.
· $1.5 million to the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition to support community workforce development.
· The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) urges Ohio employers to cash the checks BWC mailed them in December to mitigate the economic hardship brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Tuesday, 23,351 employers still had not cashed $513.7 million in checks BWC sent last month in its $5 billion dividend for nearly 180,000 private and public employers.
· Ohioans filed 37,309 initial and 278,026 continued jobless claims last week, according to statistics the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported to the U.S. Department of Labor today. In addition, 30,373 Ohioans received Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) last week.
· Over the last 43 weeks, ODJFS has distributed more than $7.7 billion in unemployment compensation payments to more than 895,000 Ohioans. ODJFS has also issued more than $7.6 billion in PUA payments to more than 825,000 Ohioans.
OHIO EPA TO HOST WEBINAR ON DRINKING WATER INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING
According to the 2018 U.S. EPA's 6th Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment, $472.6 billion is needed to maintain and improve the nation’s drinking water
infrastructure over the next 20 years. Ohio’s portion of that total is $13.5 billion.
Ohio EPA’s Water Supply Revolving Loan Account (WSRLA) program provides financial assistance for the planning, design, and construction of improvements to community water systems and non-profit non-community public water systems. Since its inception, the WSRLA has provided more than $1.8 billion for water infrastructure improvements, and the demand for funding continues to increase every year.
In preparation for the WSRLA program’s annual call for project nominations, the Ohio EPA will be hosting a webinar on January 21. To learn more and to register, click HERE.