If you want to see the future of local government services look to the past.
School districts across Ohio for years were forced to make deep cuts in programming while taxpayers repeatedly turned down ballot measures for new tax money.
The cuts went to the bone, according to school administrators. Voters only relent -- it seems -- when pending cuts seem draconian. The Margaretta school board hopes residents see cuts already made have been responsible and complete when they vote this fall on a tax levy for the schools.
But the treadmill -- repeatedly having to go back to voters asking for more money -- will continue for all Ohio school districts and now it will be hitting local governments with the same sort of intensity.
Future revenue shortfalls and a diminishing tax base will force municipal and county governments to make deep cuts in services in the same fashion school districts have survived with their backs to the wall.
Local trustee boards, councils and commissions need to learn that real quick. In Bellevue, voters will be asked this fall to hike the city income tax rate, but approval from residents will be a tough sell without serious and painful cuts in services to meet diminishing city finances.
If there was ever a time when local governments should review all options for regionalization, consolidation and cost saving reform now is that time.
There is not a city or county service that should not be reviewed, streamlined and brought to a new level of cost efficiency. There is no government service that should not be a candidate for consolidation, and that includes a combined Sandusky-Perkins police force, a regional fire service and even combined school districts.
Tighter budgets, shrinking population and reduced spending are the future. Voters need to recognize that the only way to afford what we've had in the past is to combine for the future. Elected officials across the region need to embrace this reality and lead us through the hard transformations we need to survive. We don't have the money to do it any other way and we need our leaders to lead the charge.