NEGLEY - In the face of state funding cuts Middleton Township trustees want to make sure enough money is available to maintain roads over the coming years.
Last week, after some consideration, the board unanimously approved placing a 2-mill road replacement levy on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The board had called a special meeting the week before to vote on seeking a renewal or replacement levy, but trustee Timothy Pancake was absent and no action was taken.
During that meeting Trustee Eldena Gearhart made a motion for the replacement levy, but it didn't garner a second from Trustee Nancy Michaels so it did not move forward. Michaels then made a motion for the renewal, which didn't garner a second from Gearhart, and also died.
Michaels later said she was leaning toward the renewal because it would result in no tax increase for residents. She also said she didn't think it would be fair for her and Gearhart to make a decision without Pancake.
"I'm just going to leave it up to the voters," she said.
Gearhart said the replacement levy, if approved by voters, will allow the township to collect based on the current property values, meaning homeowners will pay more on the tax, although collection will not exceed 2-mills.
The township is currently collecting 1.26 mills on residential and 1.40 mills on commercial property on the 2-mill road levy that was renewed four years ago. The township has collected on the levy since the mid-1990s, when it was first put before voters.
Gearhart and Fiscal Officer Bob Chapman have explained the township is collecting less than 2-mills as a result of an increase in property values. The township is not allowed to collect more than what the property values were estimated at when the levy was renewed.
The current levy is in effect through next year and generates $73,500 annually.
Gearhart said with the replacement levy the owner of a $100,000 home would see an increase of $22.64 per year over what they are currently paying. The five-year replacement levy would take effect in 2014 and is estimated to earn $111,700 annually
"It's important that people don't think it's a new tax. It's the same one we had on there, it just gives us an opportunity to recompute the amount of tax being collected," she said.
The replacement levy would help the township make up cuts in local government funding (LGF) from the state, she added.
The cuts were included in the two-year state budget adopted last year. In 2011, the township received $64,917 from the state in LGF funding. That dropped to $45,924 this year. The township is expected to lose $10,825 in 2013, bringing that year's allocation down to $35,099.
Trustees have said that with less money coming from the state it's getting more difficult to maintain roads.
"You can't take a chance with not knowing what is going to happen with all of the funds," Gearhart said, "and once you do it you're locked in. We don't have any recourse other than continuing to cut what we have to cut to stay within the budget. We know that the roads are our priority and nobody wants to see the roads deteriorate and you have to have money to keep them going."
The board has only recently considered closing the township-owned portion of Echo Dell Road since there isn't enough money available for its repair.
Trustees say the road that serves as an entrance into Beaver Creek State Park is a safety hazard because of its condition. The board is communicating with the county engineer's office and Ohio Department of Natural Resources to see if public funding is available to repair the road to keep it open.
Another entrance into the park is located in St. Clair Township.
"Everybody is aware of what we need to do out there. I think all departments are going to pull together with this so we can get something done to try and improve that road," Gearhart said.