Earlier this month Greater Ohio went to Montgomery County to participate in a day-long program: Developing the Miami Valley Region Together. Sitting on the “The Current and Future State of Regionalism” panel, Greater Ohio discussed the recent history of Ohio’s governance and taxation structures and how these systems have given rise to fragmented and—at times—duplicative, costly governments. As we pointed out in the discussion, excessive government layers often encourage urban sprawl, by seemingly making the edges of the metro cheaper. Looking at a region—like the Dayton metro—as a whole, however, shows that sprawling infrastructure and governments weaken the overall economic power of the core and its suburbs. Regional approaches, such as sharing service responsibilities between jurisdictions (such as using one parks and rec supervisor for two villages instead of each hiring their own), or even consolidations (as might happen among the city, county, and township fire departments) can reduce costs, maintain the same level of service, and encourage jurisdictions to more thoughtfully consider the addition of any new government layer on the edge of the region.
Greater Ohio was pleased to be invited to this public forum, as all of the day’s discussions sought to explain the different ways government cooperation can work, and what the benefits and disadvantages are to moving to more regionalistic structures. As we recommended in our April Budget Analysis, budget cuts at the state and local levels must be accompanied by legislation and administrative policies that help smooth the belt-tightening transition by enabling and making permissive regional solutions. The discussion underway in Montgomery County signals to us that local leaders have a real desire for governance reforms that will help them build strong metros in the future.