Know the facts before casting vote
When the Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich reduced the Local Government Fund, the idea was for the public sector to adjust without burdening taxpayers and for local governments to share the burden already being absorbed by the state.
When local governments respond by trying to increase taxes to make up for the cut, that defeats the purpose.
Voters facing proposed tax increases on the Nov. 4 General Election ballot should also consider that the state made cuts only to the Local Government Fund. The vast majority of local government funding remains untouched.
Voters also should remember what we said Sunday property owners lose the 12.5 percent homestead exemption if they approve new money, whether in the form of an additional or a replacement levy.
The Tribune Chronicle Editorial Board also recommends that voters consider the following points that pertain to specific Trumbull County levies. In some cases, yes or no decisions seem obvious. In others, voters face more difficult choices.
Trustees are requesting tax increases for police and fire protection. The police levy on the ballot is a decrease in millage from 2.1 mills to 1.6 mills, but a $100,000 increase in collections based on more recent property values.
The problem here is that after using a grant to analyze merging police departments with Hubbard and Hubbard Township, officials in all three communities are balking over a technicality. Talks of merging fire departments with other communities also broke down.
There doesn’t seem to be enough effort placed on shared services to prevent raising taxes.
Trustees want a 2-mill additional levy for its Police Department. On the heels of a nearly 6-mill school levy increase in May and a 1-mill fire department increase last year, voters should consider how rapidly taxes are increasing for Champion property owners.
The township contracts with Brookfield for fire and EMS service. It’s a good arrangement for both communities.
Now trustees want a 2-mill levy to continue maintaining its own police department. We suggest that trustees contract out for police protection just as it does for fire protection. They just might find they could provide constituents with more service for less money.
Two years ago, trustees eliminated a 1.25-mill levy for emergency dispatching, opting instead to contract with Trumbull County for improved service at a much lower price. Trustees now want the 1.25 mills back, this time to cover the cost of road repairs.
Knowing that in less than four years trustees have wiped out a massive deficit and knowing that none of the road levy money would go toward payroll, voters should be comfortable supporting it. The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $43.75 per year. This would allow the road department to address decaying streets that have been neglected for years.
Village officials want voters to approve a 0.35 percent income tax. Failure, they say, would result in cuts to the police force. This would cost those earning the median income – $32,000 per year in Newton Falls – about $112 annually.
The targeted cuts are logical in that police is the only department solely dependent on the general fund and most of the department’s budget is spent on personnel. What doesn’t seem logical is that the village has not explored contracting with another agency, such as the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office, for law enforcement services.
Village officials say they haven’t pursued that option because of an emotional response from citizens against it. However, in a village-conducted survey, residents indicated overwhelmingly that they would favor shared services with other communities and that improvements are needed in the police department.
Newton Falls has already eliminated the equivalent of six full-time jobs. The village also contracted with the county for emergency dispatching service, a significant money-saver for taxpayers. These are among the good decisions city leaders have made.
Township trustees are asking for a .5-mill levy to maintain its seven cemeteries. The trustees have previously reduced expenses by contracting with the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office for police protection.
While Ohio law allows townships to contract out for law enforcement, it requires townships to maintain cemeteries. Without the levy, which would cost property owners about $17.50 per year for every $100,000 in value, prices would increase for those using the cemetery. While that might sound fair at first, it puts a greater strain on lower income families.
Voters should approve the levy.