Trust fund still on Palestine’s back burner

EAST PALESTINE – The village has borrowed upwards of $2.46 million from its electric trust fund over the years and still owes upwards of $1.97 million, according to figures provided by Finance Director Traci Thompson on Monday.

The figures were attached to legislation before council allowing for the suspension of payback to the fund another two years.

Council discussed the matter at the Sept. 23 meeting after Councilman Jim Tyger suggested suspending the payments two years instead five.

The fund was established in 1974 as a result of the $3.08 million sale of the light plant to Ohio Edison. Following approval by past councils the village began borrowing from the fund several years ago to cover expenses in the water, sewer, street and general fund. The stipulation was any money taken would be paid back.

The bulk of the money ($1.3 million) went to the general fund, with the rest going to the sewer ($507,154), water ($120,829), and street ($38,823) funds, according to Thompson’s information.

Payback stopped around 2002, when the village ran out of money to put back into the fund because of covering other operational expenses.

In that year council passed legislation suspending the payback five years. In 2008 council passed legislation to suspend payback another five years.

Legislation suspending the payback yet another five years was put before council in January but tabled while they discussed the merits of doing so.

Tyger, who serves on the finance committee, suggested the two year suspension because money is still not available for payback.

The legislation before council on Monday stated that if suspended, no interest would accumulate during that time. No interest was set on a majority of the money borrowed from the fund, although a 5 percent interest was set on most of the money borrowed for the sewer fund.

Of the money borrowed:

– $210,000 went toward sewer flow meters in 1996.

– $152,646 went toward a new street sweeper in 1997.

– $90,000 went toward the Captain Taggart building in 1999.

– $400,000 went toward capital improvements (not specified) in 2003.

– $63,000 went toward the Copes lift station in 2006.

The list did not specify the remainder of the borrowing but only listed which fund the money went to and the ordinance for which the borrowing was approved. Copies of the ordinances are available at the administrative offices.

Council gave a first reading to the two-year suspension legislation, although Councilman Fran Figley said he will not approve of suspending the payback when it comes time to vote on the matter.

He is concerned the village will make a habit of borrowing the money and never pay it back.

Thompson said the fund is receiving some revenue through the sale of lots at Leslie Run Estates and tap-in fees for the new lift station, and that has been done throughout the duration of the previous suspensions.

A first reading was also given to legislation changing the fee structure for some services in the park, including the public pool. Those changes were also discussed at the Sept. 23 meeting.

In other business, Zuch announced anyone interested in a seat on the board of zoning appeals of library zoning board should send a letter expressing that interest to the administrative office by mid-November. Letters should be dated 144 N. Market St. prior to Oct. 31 and 85 N. Market St. after.

One seat is available on the zoning appeals and three seats are available on the library board. Both are five-year terms and members are appointed by council.

Three seats on the park board are also available for new five-year terms and anyone interested should contact Village Manager Pete Monteleone, who appoints those members.