Liberty makes case for road levy

LIBERTY – Township officials are asking residents to support a road levy, which they say is mandatory for future road resurfacing projects.

A group of about 20 people showed up for a special meeting hosted by township trustees Monday evening to discuss the additional 5-year, 1.25-mill road levy. The levy will appear on the November ballot for Liberty residents.

A similar levy failed passage two years ago, but Trustee Jason Rubin said that may have been due to confusing language regarding whether the money was going to the roads or road department payroll.

“If this passes, it will go for roads, not payroll or anything else,” Rubin said. “People are starving out there. I understand that. It’s tough, but we’re at the point where we need to do something.”

According to officials, many of the township’s roads are crumbling and heavily patched, which serves as more of a bandage than a permanent fix.

Roger Baker, a road department employee, said the township has had to do more with less over the past six years.

“I work for the road department and I’ve been there for 13 years since 2000,” Baker said. “For my first six years, we were paving five or six streets end-to-end, every year. In the last six years, we’ve paved only four roads and all the roads that were paved in my first six years are now falling apart.

“We’re doing our best, but we need help.”

The levy would cost a person with a $100,000 home $43.75 per year and would generate $266,320 annually.

Trustee Jodi Stoyak told the audience state budget cuts have left the township with few options for road resurfacing but to ask taxpayers for the additional millage.

“A lot of our projects are funded through the general fund which has been overly depleted due to Governor (John) Kasich and his elimination of personal property tax to local government, reduction of local government funds and stopping the estate tax,” Stoyak said. “This is our last year for estate tax.”

The road department is also funded by the motor vehicle license tax, gasoline tax and road and bridge fund, officials said. According to figures provided to the Tribune Chronicle, funding from these three sources has been reduced in the last two years by a combined total of $57,853.

Meanwhile, Liberty is currently working without any road levy on the books.

All of these factors, Trustee Stan Nudell said, have resulted in a dire situation for the township’s roads.

“If you live in a community and you want the best for your community, roads are important,” Nudell said. “In order to get new roads, we need to have assistance from the township. There is no millage right now coming into the township for roads.”

This will be the only monies that we receive other than what we get from the state, which has been reduced,” he continued. “So, in order to get new roads, we need the help of the township.”

Additionally, Administrator Pat Ungaro explained if Liberty passes the levy, he can use the monies as matching funds for state resurfacing grants.

“Let’s put it this way, if we don’t get matching money, we can still probably do three streets a year for five years,” Ungaro said. “If I can get grants by using this as matching funds, we could double the monies easily.”

Sue Williams of Tibbetts Wick Road came away from the meeting with a better understanding of why the levy is needed in the township.

“I wanted to hear whether or not, if we do pass this levy, the money will be used for roads and roads only,” Williams said. “So, I definitely support the levy, because we need this money.”

However, Williams said she is less sure township administration will be able to use this money for larger resurfacing grants.

“The state has taken away so much, how do we know those funds will be there?” Williams asked. “The state doesn’t guarantee anything and we’ve learned that.”

Ungaro countered that, while he can’t completely guarantee matching funds, he can say without hesitation that no resurfacing is possible without the levy.

“There are no guarantees with the state when it comes to grants,” Ungaro said. “But we just can’t afford resurfacing without this levy. We don’t have the funds. It is up to the people.”