HB 371 which would create a state Local Government Innovation Council that could make loans and awards to political subdivisions for local government innovation projects including those that are part of a consolidation effort, received a sponsor’s hearing November 15 in the House Finance and Appropriations Committee.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Amstutz presented testimony on the bill which is being co-sponsored by Rep. Weddington who was unable to
make the day’s hearing.
Amstutz told the committee the bill “proposes to adjust the Local Government Innovation Program” that was
created in the current operating budget. He acknowledged that “the budget process presented limited opportunities
to give a full vetting of this program with the stakeholders … this bill … is a starting point for that discussion.”
He said the recommendations in the bill came from the Office of Budget and Management and Department of
Amstutz noted that “one of the bigger changes proposed … is recalibrating the population thresholds that assure
some level of distribution amongst local governments of differing sizes. The population sizes which require at least
30 percent of funds be distributed above and below the line are as follows:
– “Smaller and larger population non-county entities to 20,000 population in the 2010 Census from the current
– “Smaller and larger population counties entities to 235,000 from 130,000.”
An issue not in the bill but one he believes needs extensive discussions relates to the mix and configuration of
loans vs. grants.
Asked by Rep. Sykes his timeline for passing the bill, Amstutz said his aggressive plan would be in three hearings
and getting through the Senate by the end of the year but it would be OK if it went over into January. Since it is a
new program, he believes the sooner the better before the Local Government Innovation Council gets too far along
in its deliberations.
Rep. Hollington asked if this were modeled on a Northeast Ohio program and Amstutz said yes and no — this
program uses public dollars and is statewide. Hollington commented that the “incentive” is the lack of money for
the communities to become innovative with Amstutz responding that sometimes “you have to spend money to save
money,” citing schools and energy savings.
Also testifying was Tom Carroll, city manager of Loveland. He suggested that the program be used to encourage
communities to use “benchmarking” for improving services, efficiencies and cost reduction. “By comparing peer
organizations’ results and cost structures, local governments have a roadmap for reform.”
He said benchmarking helps ensure that change is “thoughtful instead of ad hoc, reasoned instead of reactionary
and successful rather than devastating.”
He suggested setting aside $500,000/year from the $50 million appropriation to be used by local townships,
villages, cities and counties on a first-come, first serve basis to participate in the International City/County
Management Association Center for Performance Measurement (ICMA CPM). Praising the work of the group, he
said this would avoid the need to create a new bureaucracy. He suggested that to get local entities to participate,
the committee should look at creating an incentive but he did not have a suggestion of what that might be.
“Whatever the mechanism, it seems important to me that we use a carrot to make the program successful.”
Rep. Carey suggested the auditor of state already does something like this with Carroll saying that in this process
the local community decides which services to measure but added that it is complementary to performance audits.
Rep. Beck suggested benchmarking can be skewed with Carroll saying the community can decide who they want to
be measured against.
Acknowledging that it can be time consuming for the local community, Carroll said that if his staff went down to
two — which is being considered — he would still do the benchmarking, adding that it is the only way to know what
you’re doing is good/right.