Surviving state budget cuts

The General Assembly recently passed, and the Governor signed, a new two-year operating budget for the State of Ohio that closed an $8 billion funding gap. Municipal leaders across the state recognize that this balanced budget was no small task given the current economic environment. We appreciate the willingness of the Governor and his top staff to meet and talk with us regarding the fiscal challenges faced by local governments. 

The fact remains, however, that the House version that was passed will catastrophically affect revenues that municipalities count on to provide services to our residents. For Bay Village, the state's 2012-13 budget slashes $11,613 in personal property tax, $374,720 in local government funding, and an additional average of nearly $500,000 when the estate tax is repealed in 2013.

This nearly $900,000 annual reduction out of the City’s $11.2 million operating budget will require change and flexibility in both the kind of services provided and the manner in which those services are delivered.  

Change can be a scary process for some although I generally like change as it acts as an impetus for learning and growth.  In Spencer Johnson’s book, "Who Moved My Cheese?", the author describes two general reactions when faced with change through an amusing parable involving four mice who have enjoyed eating from the same room full of cheese for a long time. 

One day the mice arrive to begin their daily feast but the cheese is gone! Two mice, named Sniff and Scurry, look around, realize the cheese isn’t coming back and begin to explore other paths to look for new cheese. The remaining two mice, named Hem and Haw, wring their paws, stamp their feet, name call, point fingers, whine that “it’s not fair!” and stand about waiting for the cheese to magically reappear.

Hem and Haw get mighty hungry waiting for someone to give them back their cheese, while Sniff and Scurry are busy snacking on the new cheese they found. It’s different cheese, but it’s still cheese and it’s good!

In order to survive these deep budget cuts, municipal leaders will have to be entrepreneurial, creative and collaborative.  We will have to make tough decisions, prioritize, and constantly assess, reassess and reconfigure what we do and how we do it. We will need to be "Sniff and Scurry" as we follow new paths to get our “cheese” for our residents.  

Of course, there will be those who behave like "Hem and Haw," usually special interests, who will cry foul as changes are implemented that affect their single issue. They will name-call, stomp their feet, be angry, and wait for their cheese to reappear. In the meantime, "Sniff and Scurry" municipal leaders will leave them behind to follow innovative paths to new and different cheese. 

As residents, you all have a part to play as you are faced with the changing role of local government. Will you react as “Hem and Haw” or “Sniff and Scurry”? There is difficult and complex work ahead of us. I am confident that the residents of our wonderful West Shore communities will join with your municipal leaders on a constructive, creative, and collaborative journey as we Scurry and Sniff out innovative ways to provide service in this difficult budgetary environment.   

Mayor Debbie Sutherland

Mayor Sutherland has served as Mayor of the City of Bay Village since October 2000 and is the longest serving mayor in the City’s history.

Read More on Readers' Opinions
Volume 3, Issue 16, Posted 2:48 PM, 08.09.2011