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Perry fiscal chief to finish out term

Morning Journal file The old guard Perry Township's fiscal officer, Susan Johnston, shown in this photo circa 2007 with then-trustees Cliff Mix, Larry Parker and Jerry Wolford, will not seek re-election this fall.

SALEM — Perry Township Fiscal Officer Susan Johnston said earlier this week that she will finish out her term.

The longtime Perry Township elected official chose not to seek re-election this fall. Nothing was said during the meeting when trustees met Monday about the fact that she didn’t file, but she agreed to make some comments after the meeting.

“I would like to thank the voters of the township and the city for their support over the years. I have enjoyed my time here, but I have had other opportunities come along that I couldn’t consider due to my commitment to the township,” she said.

Johnston wouldn’t elaborate on those opportunities. She has her own accounting business in Salem.

Her term expires on March 31. Township resident John Volio was the only candidate to file for the fiscal officer position, so his term will begin April 1, unless someone would decide to run as a write-in. The deadline for write-ins to file is Aug. 26.

During the recent trustees’ meeting, Johnston attempted to explain how the township finances work after two township residents, Linda Dickey and Maria Harrold, raised issues again about the police department staffing, the lack of an officer on the county Drug Task Force and how the departments get revenue.

The police department depends on three police levies for operations that have continued to be renewed or replaced over the years. The fire department has two continuous levies that don’t have to be voted on since they were passed as continuous. The road department has one continuous levy, plus receives funding from the gas tax and other sources that can only be used for the road department. There’s also a safety forces levy that’s split between the police and fire departments and can be used only for equipment or communications, such as dispatching. The township contracts with the county sheriff’s office for dispatching services for the police and fire departments.

Then there’s also the general fund, which representatives of the state Auditor’s office showed was gradually getting smaller. The general fund is the only fund that can be used to help out other funds and according to what Johnston has said previously, has been used to help supplement the police department.

Both Dickey and Harrold have repeatedly expressed a desire for another full-time officer on the police force and the placement of an officer on the DTF, which trustees had said they wanted to do last fall, but then they said hours needed cut in the police department for part-timers and they needed to see how the budget turned out.

Trustee Cliff Mix said the township won’t be putting anyone on the DTF at this time.

“It probably is necessary, but we can’t afford it,” he said.

Of the three departments, he said the police department has the lowest revenue. Johnston said some departments are in the black and some are in the black but not as much.

“What has changed in the last year? Less money coming in?” Dickey asked.

Mix said the money has stayed the same for the police department, but costs have gone up.

Dickey also asked about the township having to pay more than $42,000 in tow company storage fees for a backhoe that was left in storage as part of a police case. Mix said the judge ruled the township was responsible to pay the bill and the township won’t be fighting it — it’s a done deal. The money was paid out of the general fund.

“So we’re out $42,000 because of somebody’s mistake?” Dickey said.

Police Chief Mike Emigh said the backhoe was tied to a criminal case for being stolen and the police department was told to have it towed. He wasn’t happy about the township having to pay the bill, either.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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