State Historical Organizations Lobby Legislature to Head-Off Funding Cuts

The Ball-Caldwell House (PHOTO: The Journal & the Noble County Leader)
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by David C. Barnett

History museums across Ohio have launched a campaign to prevent a cut in state funding.  For the past four years, Ohio citizens have had the option to divert a portion of their tax refunds to support a variety of special causes through a check-off box. But, fewer people have checked those boxes in recent years, and future projects may be in trouble.

The tax return check-off program supports projects in several areas, including military injury relief, breast and cervical cancer, and historical organizations.  That history fund has generated about $154,000 a year since 2012.  It's not a lot of money in terms of state finances, but it's proven vital to a number of small town projects.  For example, the Noble County Historical Society in east central Ohio got $3900 to replace the boiler in an historic home that was on a list to be demolished.  The Historical Society’s Joy Flood says the money was a godsend

"It gave us the boost we needed to go ahead and invest more in the property," she explains,  "because it is our heritage, and we could not let that be all torn down and apartments be built all over the yard."

Last year, the history fund took a nosedive --- only $80,000 was generated.  The breast and cervical cancer fund is also low, and under current state law, if a check-off fund brings in less than $150,000, two years in a row, it will be dropped.  The state's historical society is lobbying to have the cut-off limit lowered.  The Ohio Department of Taxation's Gary Gudmundson says all the check-off funds are hurting.

"We've seen combined contributions drop from about $1.4 million to about $700,000.  It has involved both a dwindling number of contributors, and obviously, a dwindling amount of dollars being contributed."

Gudmundson won't speculate as to why fewer taxpayers have been checking those boxes, but says it's up to the legislature to lower the cut-off threshold.   

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