Ohio’s climb out of the Great Recession is reflected in the new two-year capital budget unveiled yesterday, in which Gov. John Kasich proposes spending $2.4 billion on construction and maintenance projects — $541 million more than two years ago.
For the first time in six years, the capital budget contains funding for local projects, about $160 million worth. The pot of money was once commonplace, providing funds for arts, sports and other community projects, but it was eliminated from recent budgets as Ohio’s economy suffered.
Franklin County community projects in the budget include $15 million for the Veterans Memorial undertaking along the Scioto River; $1 million for work on three local theaters, including transformation of the former Central Presbyterian Church on S. 3rd Street into a concert and music hall; $1 million for the Franklin Park Conservatory; and $1.1 million for the Columbus Museum of Art.
The state fairgrounds also would get a major upgrade with $38 million for two new buildings. Leaders of the annual All American Quarter Horse Congress, which attracts a large number of visitors and their money, had suggested the event might leave the fairgrounds because of inadequate facilities.
“These kind of critical investments will keep the Congress in Ohio and provide us options to improve and grow the event,” Scott Myers, executive director of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association, said yesterday.
The budget, which must be approved by the General Assembly, would fund a wide variety of projects, from new carpeting in the House and Senate chambers to driving simulators at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. It also would pay for overdue maintenance, particularly in state prisons and parks.
“Because we’ve managed our money well, we can catch up on some needed maintenance and construction of public facilities, including at the local level,” Kasich said in a statement.
The budget includes $455 million for higher education, about $55 million more than two years ago. The most, $83 million, is earmarked for the Ohio State main campus, including $37.2 million for Pomerene Hall. Columbus State Community College would get $9 million to increase the number of students taking online courses.
About $675 million would be used to build or renovate K-12 schools; $100 million of that would come from licensing fees paid by racetracks for electronic slot machines. Total funding, state Budget Director Tim Keen said, should allow the state to continue 80 current district projects, while funding 20 to 25 new districts each year.
This bill includes $444 million for the Public Works Commission to pay for road, bridge, water and sewer projects; that’s up from $365 million proposed two years ago.
State and local parks would get $236 million for repairs and improvements — more than four times the amount approved two years ago. Ohio parks are heavily visited and highly rated, Keen said, “But this is also a system that’s showing its age.”
The bill would provide $130 million for adult prisons and $36.1 million for juvenile detention facilities. Keen said this is a necessary increase because prisons built 30 years ago are starting to require “more intensive renovations.”
The Department of Youth Services would use $25 million to replace housing units at the Circleville facility to improve security and meet requirements of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.
The Ohio Department of Transportation rarely gets capital funds, but this budget proposes $100 million for state maintenance facilities.
Of $19.4 million proposed for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, $15 million is earmarked for permanent supportive housing, recovery programs and residential treatment. The Department of Developmental Disabilities would get $20.4 million, about half of which would be used for community housing assistance.
Among the other projects funded would be $2 million for the Newark Earthworks, $500,000 for Zoar Village in Tuscarawas County, and about $400,000 for the Serpent Mound in Adams County.
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Proposed Ohio capital-budget projects
• Franklin: $802.3 million
• Cuyahoga: $64.8 million
• Hamilton: $73.4 million
• Summit: $33.5 million
• Lucas: $29.3 million
• Stark: $14.8 million
• Montgomery: $14.6 million
FRANKLIN COUNTY COMMUNITY PROJECTS
• Veterans Memorial: $15 million
• Ohio Historical Society: $2 million
• Reeb School renewal: $2 million
• Columbus Museum of Art: $1.1 million
• Columbus Zoo and Aquarium: $1 million
• Franklin Park Conservatory butterfly house: $1 million
• Columbus theater renovations project: $1 million
• CCAD Cinematic Arts Studio: $750,000
• Nancy’s Place women’s shelter replacement: $500,000
• Upper Arlington fiber-optic network: $500,000
• Dublink Ignite fiber-optic project: $300,000
• Harmony Project: $300,000
• Help All Kids Play Hilliard sports complex: $150,000
• Glass Axis relocation: $150,000
• Pro Football Hall of Fame: $10 million
• Middle Bass Island State Park: $6 million
• Buckeye Lake Dam renovation: $4 million
• Newark Earthworks: $2 million
• Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland: $1 million
• Marion Palace Theatre: $731,000
• Zoar Village: $502,500
• The Wilds: $500,000
• Serpent Mound: $397,900
• Harriet Beecher Stowe House: $300,000
• Harding Home State Memorial: $250,000
• Delaware Strand Theater renovation: $150,000
Source: Proposed state capital budget
Jim Siegel - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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