Tag Archives: Ohio

America’s Rural Hospitals Are Dangerously Fragile

Source: Brian Alexander, The Atlantic, January 9, 2018

… Last November, however, Circleville’s voters chose another direction, one that, in other places, has resulted in an economic hit to the community—mostly in the form of job losses and stagnant wages—as well as a lowered quality of care. At the urging of city and county leaders, and Berger’s administrators, residents voted to allow local politicians and the hospital’s board to begin a process to turn Berger, one of the last publicly owned and operated hospitals in the state, into a nonprofit private corporation. Following that, Berger would most likely be integrated into a larger regional system, probably the Columbus-based nonprofit Ohio Health, with which Berger has an ongoing relationship. …
 
… Hospitals have been struggling—especially independent public and/or nonprofit hospitals located in smaller cities and rural towns. Last year, for example, the National Rural Health Association, a nonprofit, estimated that 673 rural facilities (with a variety of ownership structures) were at risk of closure, out of over 2,000. And with the new tax legislation, and events like the merger of the drugstore chain CVS and the insurer Aetna, the turmoil looks to get worse. In response, stand-alone nonprofit hospitals have been auctioning off their real estate to investors, selling themselves to for-profit chains or private-equity firms, or, like Berger, folding themselves into regional health systems. …

Editorial: Laketran, Painesville Township applauded for cost-saving efforts

Source: The News-Herald, December 2, 2017

… At Laketran, an idea that will save money and potentially produce revenue arose after the transit agency began having difficulty finding vendors to perform alignments on its 35-foot transit buses and 40-foot commuter coaches. As Bare considered alternatives, he came up with an idea that led back to Laketran’s own maintenance garage. He suggested Laketran bring alignment service in-house with potential to sell the services through governmental agency contracts. … “We believe there are other governmental agencies, like the county or local school districts, that may be having the same difficulties,” said Laketran General Manager Ben Capelle. “Once our maintenance department is trained and we have a general idea of how much time the alignment will take, we plan to offer alignment services to governmental agencies within Lake County. … So with a state-of-the art alignment machine and a staff of highly skilled mechanics, Laketran has positioned itself to not only save on maintenance expenses for its own bus fleet, but also to work with other governmental agencies who need similar work done on their buses or trucks. The concept of regionalism — government entities from different nearby communities sharing services, personnel or programs to save money for all parties involved — has become quite popular in recent years. So give Laketran credit for seeing how doing alignment services in-house was a smart idea. …

Group pushes for answers over potential sale of library building

Source: WLWT, December 12, 2017

Potential plans to close the Cincinnati Library’s north building has sparked some concerns, and a local group is demanding answers. The “Our Library, Our Decision!” coalition is on a mission to stop the library from the sale. More than 20 people with the group attended the library board’s monthly meeting Tuesday, expressing their concerns. “We called out the board and administration as, at this point, being basically incompetent and untrustworthy,” said member Charles Campbell. … Including Campbell, 3,000 people signed a petition opposing the potential sale, which the coalition hand-delivered to the board. …

Monroe County Commissioners hear engineer requests

Source: Dylan McKenzie, Times Leader, December 5, 2017

The Monroe County Engineer’s Office brought several items before the county commissioners Monday, including the possibility of contracting out for grass mowing services. County Engineer Amy Zwick talked with commissioners about the possibility of hiring outside help for grass mowing services in the future. Zwick said her employees are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, and the county is in the process of negotiating a contract with the union. Zwick said that depending on how negotiations go, the county might have to lay off some employees, which would force her to look for help with services that are not strictly essential to the county, such as grass mowing. She asked the commissioners if it would be possible for them to contract directly through their office to get the mowing done if necessary, adding that even if negotiations go well she would still need new tractors for mowing, which could be expensive. …

County services for disabled moving to private providers

Source: Rita Price, Columbus Dispatch, October 30, 2017
 
Federal rule changes about case management and Medicaid payments are forcing county disabilities boards throughout the state to privatize and outsource many of their remaining programs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has mandated “conflict-free case management” by 2024 in Ohio, which means counties cannot be both the coordinator and the provider of services paid with Medicaid waiver funds.  But county boards still must pay for services and put up the local share of the Medicaid match — in Franklin County, more than $60 million a year for adult waiver services. Medicaid waivers provide money for community-based services so that people don’t have to be in an institution to get the care and programs they need. … Some 300 members of the county’s adult-services staff are to become ARC Industries employees in January 2019. … ARC is the disabilities program that provides job training, workshop employment, transportation and other services. Although ARC already was a nonprofit employer for people with disabilities, the workshops and programs have been staffed by county employees. Early childhood and school programs can continue to be operated by the board because they’re not funded through Medicaid waivers. … Initially, Morison said, the board’s costs might increase as a new infrastructure is established. He expects it to even out in coming years. …

Don’t mess with RITA in Niles recovery plan

Source: The Vindicator, July 31, 2017
 
Last week, the Niles Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, the state-appointed panel overseeing the city’s recovery, put its stamp of approval on the seventh rendition of a plan authored by Mayor Thomas Scarnecchia and approved by city council. It lays out a road map for cost-cutting and capital improvements for the beleaguered city of 19,000 people over the next five years.  Among its more noteworthy features include implementation of two $5 license-plate fees to generate about $180,000 a year, borrowing of $1.6 million to make critically needed improvements to crumbling city buildings and dismantling the city’s income-tax department.  That latter move to outsource most income-tax functions of city government to the Regional Income Tax Agency operated in connection with the Council of Regional Governments has ignited a firestorm of opposition from some within city government, most notably the leadership of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 506 in the city. …

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Niles deciding whether to outsource income tax collection
Source: Stan Boney, WKBN, July 14, 2017
 
It appears Niles will have a five-year plan — which includes outsourcing income tax collection to an agency outside of the city — to get out of fiscal emergency. But not everyone agrees with it.  The plan would replace the Niles Income Tax Department with the Regional Income Tax Agency, known as RITA. … Bob Ward, president of the AFSCME Local 506 — a union representing the income tax workers, said he’s not in agreement with it.  He showed WKBN a grievance from 2016 — which the union won — preventing RITA from taking over.  Ward said they’ll file another grievance if need be. …

Ohio’s spending on private IT contracts balloons under Kasich

Source: Randy Ludlow, Columbus Dispatch, May 14, 2017 

State spending on information-technology consultants, contractual employees and other private services has ballooned to $452 million a year, while the number of generally less-expensive state IT employees has dropped.  As part of a preliminary inquiry into no-bid contracts uncovered by The Dispatch, the office of Ohio Auditor Dave Yost reports that spending on IT “personal services” has more than doubled from $207 million in 2011-12. … A Dispatch investigation published last month revealed that Administrative Services officials overrode the concerns — both legal and financial — of agency purchasing analysts to award millions of dollars in no-bid contracts, including to a company employing former state IT executives. Supervisors deny disregarding the agency’s purchasing policy and sidestepping the protocol of the state Controlling Board, a bipartisan group that approves major state outlays. The House-passed state budget includes language authored by Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, requiring state officials to seek bids on all IT consultants and purchases. The provision also would require such contracts to be submitted to the Controlling Board for its approval.

Gov. Kasich’s budget bill would allow no-bid sale of 6,900 acres of prison farmland

Source: Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch, April 29, 2017

The state could sell more than 6,900 acres of prison farmland through “negotiated real-estate purchase agreements” rather than competitive bidding or public auctions under the budget bill pending in the Ohio House.  Language permitting an unusual no-bid process for selling nearly 11 square miles of state land is built into the two-year state budget proposed by Gov. John Kasich’s administration. … The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, a labor union representing about 30,000 state employees, including prison workers, said in a statement that the proposed no-bid process for selling the land is “troubling.” The union wants it removed from the budget bill.   “The clear pattern of waiving the rules around competitive state bids is troubling,” said union President Chris Mabe.  “Not only are IT (information technology) contracts part of that pattern, it now appears state farmlands could be sold in a back-door deal with zero competition or transparency. For all we know, whoever lobbied to close the farms could walk away with a huge land deal for a fraction of the value. Either way, taxpayers will be the loser here.” …

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An end of an era at prison farm as beef cattle are sold
Source: Lou Whitmire, Mansfield News Journal, October 25, 2016

The beef cattle that graze outside the Mansfield Correctional Institution farm on Ohio 13 were sold Tuesday at auction, ending an era at the prison for inmates raising registered Angus cattle. MANCI cattle manager Bernard Bauer II became emotional, unable to speak for a few seconds as he told the large crowd of farmers who came to bid that he had spent the past 14 years building the registered Angus herd. … The cattle auction Tuesday was held for a complete dispersal of prison’s registered  Angus breeding herd, including registered aged bred cows, registered bred heifers, registered open breeding heifers, commercial open yearling heifers, registered breeding bulls and registered bull calves. This herd had an estimated aggregate value at auction of $535,250. … In April, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections announced the state prison farm operated at Mansfield Correctional Institution was among 10 agricultural operations Ohio is shutting down in a move to raise millions of dollars to fund new rehabilitation and job-training programs for inmates through land sales. … Earlier, Ohio Civil Service Employees Association officials said the move was announced “without much explanation, rationale or plan” in a conference call to the union. Tuesday, roughly 50 members of the union picketed along Ohio 13 North, outside the farm. The union had sought an injunction from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to halt the sale of prison farm assets until a pending grievance was arbitrated. The court denied the union’s request. A grievance filed by the union regarding the closures is still pending. …

The Day The Last Cows Left Prison
Source: Esther Honig, WOSU, October 25, 2016

As the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections prepares to shut down its farming operations, the final auction of black Angus cattle got underway at the Mansfield Correctional Institution. Some 300 buyers came from around the country. But not everyone is pleased to see the cows off. … As cattle were auctioned off, the union representing the Mansfield prison farm employees – the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association – held a protest outside the prison. They’ve organized protests for the other three cattle auctions held by the ODRC earlier this year. Union president Chris Mabe says 50 ODRC employees will lose their jobs due to the closures. He say the program was beneficial for inmates and the local community. … Products from the prison farms, like milk and vegetables, were used to supplement the diets of Ohio inmates. The farms also donated thousands of pound of vegetables to local food banks. Jo Ellen Smith with the Ohio Corrections Department says the farming program is being phased out to make room for, “more meaningful career training opportunities.” …

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Ohio State plans to privatize energy with largest investment in university history

Source: Owen Daugherty and Summer Cartwright, The Lantern, March 30, 2017
 
Ohio State has proposed a plan to receive its largest investment in the university’s history by selling its energy to the highest bidder. In accepting the unprecedented proposal, OSU will move forward in a public-private partnership with ENGIE, a French global energy producer and operator, who would control the energy used on campus for the next 50 years. The agreement, which is the first of its stature, includes the largest upfront payment — to the tune of $1.015 billion — between an American university and a global energy partner, OSU officials said. University officials said they ultimately chose the proposal from ENGIE-Axium because it offered the largest upfront payment of the three competitors, in turn committing the most money to the University’s endowment. This continues the trend of OSU privatizing its resources, which began with its CampusParc deal in 2012. The 50-year, $483 million deal was also the largest of its kind. …

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Ohio State CFO will recuse himself from decision in energy privatization plan
Source: Tom Knox, Columbus Business First, March 9, 2017

The chief financial officer at Ohio State University will recuse himself from deciding who will privatize the university’s energy operations. Geoff Chatas will help analyze the financial aspects of the deal but won’t know who the final candidates are – they’ll be masked to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, said Ohio State President Michael Drake. … The CFO won’t have a say in who will run the university’s energy operations for 50 years because of a choice he made in 2015 when he accepted a job at the parent company of CampusParc, which in 2012 had negotiated a deal with university officials, including Chatas, to privatize OSU’s parking operations. The move raised questions of quid pro quo, which Chatas vehemently denied, but he soon reversed course and stayed at the university. … Ohio State expects to make a choice on energy privatization before the end of the school year. It’s a unique arrangement for a public university: a group of companies would for 50 years operate utility assets that make Ohio State run, including natural gas and chilled and heated water facilities. The winning bidder would have to meet sustainability goals sought by Ohio State. …

OSU moving toward privatizing its power system
Source: Laura A. Bischoff, Dayton Daily News, February 11, 2017

Ohio State University says it is taking the next step toward becoming the largest institution nationwide to hire private companies to manage its energy systems for decades to come. OSU Provost Bruce McPheron gave notice to staff and students on Thursday that the university will formally ask finalists to submit proposals for the massive project. The finalists in the running have not been disclosed. Ohio State administrators will determine by the end of the current semester whether to ask trustees to pull the trigger on it. The university is weighing whether to hire private contractors to take control of critical assets: the utility system that heats, cools and powers more than 400 buildings on main campus. OSU would receive an undetermined amoung of upfront cash and then agree to buy its energy from the vendor. The contractor would be responsible for making energy efficiency upgrades to cut OSU consumption by 25 percent within a decade. …

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Student Login Records at Ohio E-Schools Spark $80 Million Dispute

Source: Benjamin Herold and Alex Harwin, Education Week, March 7, 2017

The Ohio education department could seek repayment of more than $80 million from nine full-time online schools, based on audits of software-login records that led state officials to determine the schools had overstated their student enrollment. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, for example, was paid for 15,322 full-time students during the 2015-16 school year. But state officials said they could document just 41 percent of that total. An Education Week analysis of both the login records submitted by ECOT and the results of the state’s audit for that year further demonstrates the scope of the discrepancy: Under Ohio law, schools are expected to offer students 920 hours of learning. But for the average ECOT student, state officials were able to document just 227 hours spent using the school’s learning software, Education Week’s review found. …

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Online charter school loses state attendance audit appeal
Source: Associated Press, December 15, 2016

A judge will allow Ohio’s education department to review attendance records that could force Ohio’s largest online charter to return millions of its funding. Franklin County Judge Jenifer French on Thursday finalized a ruling against the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, or ECOT. The decision rejects a request by ECOT to block the state from requiring the school provide log-in durations as a way of measuring how many students attend the school. The state said has said that ECOT’s enrollment is nearly 60 percent lower than originally reported, potentially jeopardizing about $60 million in state funding from last year. …

ECOT online charter school appeals two rulings that threaten $60 million in funding
Source: Patrick O’Donnell, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, October 11, 2016 (Appeal available at bottom of article)

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) has filed appeals with both the Ohio Department of Education and an appeals court to challenge rulings that threaten more than $60 million of its state funding. Neither appeal offers much detail of the online charter school’s case, but they start procedures to block the state from recovering money paid to the school last year because it cannot document how much time its students spent on their classes.

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