Four of top five cities with budgets most vulnerable to pandemic located in Ohio

    Ohio State Capitol building; Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images

    An analysis from the national think tank Brookings shows four out of five cities in the U.S. with the most immediate fiscal impacts from COVID-19 are located in Ohio, including Columbus and Cincinnati and Nos. 1 and 2, and Toledo and Cleveland at Nos. 4 and 5.

    “To understand when cities can anticipate the brunt of COVID-19’s impact on their general fund revenues, we examined the extent to which a city relies on general tax sources that respond quickly to economic swings,” Brookings explained its analysis. “An important factor is whether the city’s underlying regional economy is composed of industries that are more immediately exposed to coronavirus-related employment declines.”

    The analysis showed Columbus with the highest percentage of general revenue income from elastic sources in 2019 at 75.47%, followed by Cincinnati at 71.76%. Bowling Green, Kentucky came in next at 71.18% before Toledo and Cleveland, with 70.72% and 67.52% respectively.

    The analysis was shared as part of an open email to Ohioans from the Ohio Mayors Alliance, signed by Lancaster Republican Mayor David Scheffler and Parma Democratic Mayor Tim DeGeeter, calling for more help to Ohio communities.

    “For Ohio’s cities, we are facing a perfect storm of increasing costs to respond the COVID-19 pandemic, while also seeing dramatic reductions in tax revenue because of the economic downturn,” the letter said. “Cities have already furloughed thousands of municipal employees and are preparing for significant service reductions as this health and economic crisis persists.”

    The mayors said that to have a safe, strong, and swift recovery, legislative leaders should come together and work to give both the private sector and the public sector the tools they need to get our economy going again.

    The two said that first, state lawmakers should quickly allocate the federal relief funds that Congress has already provided to address COVID-related expenses at the local level. The Ohio Senate has taken swift action in that allocation with Senate Bill 310, they said, urging the Ohio House of Representatives to do the same.

    Second, they wrote, Congress must pass a federal aid package that includes additional flexible fiscal relief for state and local governments.

    “The CARES Act was an important first step to provide aid to state and local governments to cover COVID-related expenses. However, the bigger challenge for most communities is the dramatic loss of tax revenue due to the economic downturn,” they wrote.

    They mayors pointed to their bipartisanship in making these requests.

    “We are from opposite parties, but we are both facing the same challenges. That is why we — along with our bipartisan coalition of mayors — are urging our state and federal partners to provide the necessary supports to help our communities emerge from this crisis safely and swiftly.”

    David C. DeWitt
    David C. DeWitt is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience covering Ohio politics and policy. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS and Plunderbund.com covering topics such as education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, government, business, labor, energy, environment and social issues. His work has also appeared in Government Executive, the Columbus Dispatch, Girlfriends magazine, Bleacher Report and the Ashtabula Star Beacon, among others.