LISBON, Ohio (WKBN) – Columbiana County officials are working to make up for an unexpected loss in revenue from state funds.
As a result of House Bill 62 passing last year, Ohio counties that use speed cameras to issue citations received a cut in Local Government Funds (LGF) from the state. The cut would be the total amount of money made from citations issued via traffic cameras.
Columbiana County is one of the affected counties.
The catch is that all communities are being hit with a cut in funding, regardless of whether they use speed cameras, according to Columbiana County officials.
“I’ve been in touch with our state representative, Tim Ginter, and he is working on an amendment to this bill, along with the other state reps,” said Columbiana County Auditor Nancy Milliken. “I think they all realize that this was put through and it was not the right choice, so we’re hoping there is an amendment.”
Last year, Ginter voted in favor of it.
WKBN tried contacting Ginter Wednesday afternoon, but we weren’t able to reach him.
“[The bill] not only penalized the community that was using it, but it cut the Local Government Funds to every other community in the county who had absolutely nothing to do with the imposition of the speed cameras,” said Columbiana County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Herron.
Columbiana County expected to receive $2,294,773 in LGF in 2021. However, in July, county officials found out they would only receive $944,972 to distribute.
That’s a difference of $1,349,801.
Herron also said the impact on the communities is tremendous and hurts money to provide necessary services.
“How many streets can this pave? How many police officers could this help fund?” he asked.
The three Columbiana County communities that used traffic cameras last year were Liverpool Township — which made $124,853 in citations, East Liverpool City — which made $1,261,207 and Wellsville — which made $2,295.
Representative Bill Seitz spoke to WKBN on Thursday afternoon and shed some light on why this is happening to Columbiana County.
He said there are two LGF funds and if the first fund is not sufficient to pay back all the money back that jurisdictions deploying traffic cameras made from citations then money is pulled from the second LGF — the undivided Local Government Fund.
So looking at what East Liverpool City made — $1,261,207.
They were expected to get $84,282 in 2021 from LGF distribution according to a spread sheet from the Columbiana County Budget Commission.
That is not sufficient to pay back the money they raised from traffic citations issued by traffic cameras.
The same situation occurred in Liverpool Township.
They raised $124,853 and were to receive $40,085 in LGF distribution in 2021, which is not enough to pay back the money raised.
Thus, the money had to come from the second LGF fund Seitz mentioned and the other jurisdictions in the county were adversely affected.
He along with other representatives, including Rep. Gil Blair of Warren, are working to change the wording on the House Bill so only the jurisdictions deploying cameras are affected when they come back to session.
“I would support making that correction, so that the other jurisdictions that did not use red light and speed cameras would not be called upon to forfeit any of their Local Government Funds,” Seitz said. “The forfeiture only should apply to the jurisdictions that used red light and speed cameras.”
He also said the money forfeited by jurisdictions using traffic and red light cameras does come back to the area the city or jurisdiction is located in.
It is given to ODOT and spent in the district for road safety improvements.
“That particular change that it go to ODOT and be spent in the district came to me in consultation with Representative Ginter,” Seitz said. “I thought that was a good change so we made that change.”
If a jurisdiction’s share of the LGF is not sufficient to forfeit for a particular year then Seitz would anticipate continuing to charge against their share of the LGF each year until they have repaid their obligation.
“We did not mean to penalize jurisdictions that never use the red light and speed cameras,” he said, “and a fix is hopefully on the way, hopefully by the end of the year in a bipartisan fashion.”
Only Liverpool Township will use the cameras next year. East Liverpool City voted them out after this year and Wellsville quit using them last November.
Columbiana County Treasurer Linda Bolon found out about the distribution across the whole county last Thursday.
“We were all led to think that it was just going to be for the municipalities that have traffic cameras,” she said. “We all feel that it’s unfair that they’re going to penalize everyone. I’m hoping the general assembly will take a look at that and get it fixed.”
Even though the bill passed last year, Herron said they didn’t find out from the Department of Taxation until July that it would impact every community in the county.
“This is a one-time major hit,” Herron said.
Bolon and Herron said the county and its communities already operate frugally, so this was tough to take.
“I’m certainly hoping that we’re going to be able to get this resolved,” Bolon said. “We see how bad it is for some of our smaller townships and municipalities. They’ve always operated very frugally here in Columbiana County and to have to take a hit like this, it just seems unfair to me.”