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E-Check Program Targeted For OEPA General Revenue Cuts

General revenue funding cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency may come entirely from the state's E-Check vehicle emissions testing program.

A $2.77 million reduction in grant funding, meanwhile, makes up the lion's share of non-GRF cuts to the OEPA under a proposal submitted by Director Laurie Stevenson in response to Gov. Mike DeWine's call for budget cuts in light of the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

OEPA is in line for a $670,700 GRF reduction under the DeWine Administration's plan to slash $775 million in spending over the next two months. An additional $6.47 million in non-GRF funding is also targeted for cuts at the agency. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, May 6, 2020)

Line item details showing the finalized impact of cuts to specific programs haven't yet been released by the DeWine Administration, but the total reduction amounts released by OBM this week match the amounts of recommended cuts submitted last month by Director Stevenson. 

n her memo to OBM, Director Stevenson wrote the agency's only remaining line item with GRF funding for the fiscal year is the E-Check program under the Division of Air Pollution Control. Contract cost reductions make up the largest part of the agency's reduction plan in that area, accounting for $393,764 in cuts. Unused payroll from the first three quarters of the fiscal year will make up another $186,944 in saved dollars.

The agency recommended realizing additional GRF savings by freezing equipment purchases ($40,000) and reducing operating costs ($50,000).

"We will reduce the unused payroll from prior quarters, a portion of the maintenance budget and all equipment funds but will need to decrease the amount of the contractor's purchase order to meet the reduction target of $670,709," Director Stevenson wrote. "We are currently working with DAS to amend the contract, and when that is complete, we will be able to reduce the amount of the purchase order."

The agency's non-GRF reductions are more extensive, with the bulk of them – $2.77 million – expected to come from grants for recycling and litter prevention, scrap tire market development, and environmental education.

"The selection process for individual projects has been completed, but we will not award the funds at this time," Director Stevenson wrote.

Under the agency plan, savings of $1.64 million would be realized by delaying some special projects involving environmental remediation and water quality. Director Stevenson said planning for those efforts will continue and that the projects are "proactive in a nature and the timing can be adjusted with minimal financial and environmental impact."

The agency proposed another $1.1 million in savings from unspent payroll resulting from vacancies in the Materials and Waste Management, Environmental and Financial Assistance and the Administrative programs. The director wrote that cut "does not adversely impact the divisions' operations for the remainder of the fiscal year."

"We will freeze purchases of equipment for all divisions for the remainder of the year, totaling $759,000, leaving a small amount available to address emergency items or replacements needed to continue critical functions," Director Stevenson added. "Requests for equipment purchases will be reviewed carefully and only approved when absolutely necessary. Equipment items required to implement remote working have purchase orders currently in place."

The director said she doesn't anticipate projects in the Environmental and Financial Assistance program will be impacted by a recommended contractual funding reduction of $200,000.