DALLAS -- A new tool to help Ohio cities and counties gauge their fiscal health found that 16 cities and one county meet the threshold for having high fiscal stress.
Another 13 cities and 2 counties are within one "cautionary" or "critical" indicator from meeting that high-stress threshold. In all, 82 percent of counties and 92 percent of cities have at least one "cautionary" or "critical" indicator.
State Auditor David Yost said at a press conference on Wednesday that the data will help cities and counties spot weaknesses before they are placed on fiscal watch, caution or emergency and aid lawmakers who will soon craft the state's two-year budget.
Akron, Ashtabula and Garfield Heights are among 10 cities showing signs they're on the road to financial trouble.
The tool used 2015 data in 17 key areas -- such as fund balances, revenue trends and debt – to test cities and counties on how they're doing.
"The financial condition of our cities and counties isn't as great as some believe, nor is it as bad as some others believe," said Yost. But Yost said that any more cuts to state aid to local governments could be problematic.
Cuts in local government funds and tax changes made at the state level will cost Ohio counties and communities nearly $1.2 billion in 2017, according to figures reported by Policy Matters Ohio.
"In general, about 30% of school and local government revenue is provided by the state, while the other 70% would be a combination of federal, local property taxes, local sales taxes, other local taxes, and other local revenues such as fees, " said office of budget and management spokesman John Charlton.
Kent Scarrett, executive director of the Ohio Municipal League, said at a press conference on Wednesday that the information shows how cites and changes in state policy have affected communities in different ways.
"A cookie-cutter approach doesn't work for some of these conversations about our local economies," Scarrett said. "There are great challenges out there in different communities and its incumbent upon us as local leaders and state leaders to try to address these."
Republican Gov. John Kasich will introduce what he says will be a very tight two-year budget next week. Kasich warned lawmakers in December that there won't be much room in the budget for new spending, as state revenues have lagged behind projections for the previous six months.
He has already talked about several things he will have on the budget agenda, including education funding increasing again this year, the creation of a chief innovation officer and an institute of technology, and tax reform to help make Ohio more job friendly.