Ohio cities face ‘snowballing effect’ with growing trend of working from home

A view of the Columbus skyline
A view of the Columbus skyline [Statehouse News Bureau]

A group representing cities across Ohio is calling on state legislators to take a close look at the struggles municipalities face now that more people work from home.

A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that, at the end of 2021, 11.1% of employees continued to work remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kent Scarrett, Ohio Municipal League executive director, said there are cities adapting to less tax revenue and a growing number of empty office buildings. Scarrett says the latter can lead to other issues, such as trespassing and other illegal activities in those vacant buildings.

“You couple that with revenue reductions and the challenges supporting the funding of police and fire that are responding to these new nuisance abatement issues, it really is kind of a snowballing effect of a lot of pressures on cities and villages,” said Scarrett.

Scarrett noted that businesses and municipalities were already preparing for the culture the shift towards remote working. But Scarrett said the pandemic put that shift into “hyper speed,” making it harder for local governments to adjust.

“We embrace the new reality, but we have to have a reasonable and clearheaded conversation with our state leaders about how we need to work together to support communities that are having significant challenges because of something that is completely of no control of their own,” said Scarrett.

Ohio Municipal League said leaders can help if legislators put more money into the local government fund — which was cut by hundreds of millions of dollars by former Gov. John Kasich — or if Gov. Mike DeWine dipped into the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

“It's raining in a lot of our communities right now and I think that awareness would be important for the recovery of the state,” Scarrett said.

Dan Tierney, DeWine’s spokesperson, underscored several investments aimed at local resources that have been proposed by the governor and approved by the legislature.

Tierney said the state has appropriated state and federal dollars for investments related to water and sewer projects, law enforcement, and schools. He added that the Rainy Day Fund is a nickname for what is actually called the Budget Stabilization Fund and is intended to be used in order to mitigate lasting effects from an economic downturn on a statewide level.

Scarrett has hopes that state leaders will be able to come together in the near future to address the issues he has laid out and create a “robust partnership.”

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

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