Bazetta should explore options other than levy

In describing what they believe is a need for a 1.5-mill, 5-year additional operating levy, Bazetta officials described how much of the acreage in this small community is untaxable.

Thousands of acres are occupied by Mosquito Lake Reservoir and is untaxed property, they said, pointing out that 1.5 million people visit the lake each year, but it’s up to Bazetta to make sure those people are safe.

That seems to make sense; however, we must point out that these are not new issues facing the township.

Trustees produced six-year budget figures that show admirable ongoing reductions in administrative personnel costs. Unfortunately, those savings have been offset by continual increases in employee health insurance costs.

The township, like all townships across Ohio, also has seen significant reductions in the state’s contribution of local government funds, tangible personal property tax and and other state funding.

Figures produced by Bazetta show the township’s general fund has lost more than $78,000 in state funding – from $139,512 in 2010 to $60,738 this year. However, documents provided by township officials also point to a loss of about $122,779 average per year from the elimination of the Ohio Estate Tax effective in 2013.

It’s that average figure with which we take issue.

Estate tax always had been hard to predict. That’s because it is based on who happens to die in the township and what was the value of the estate left behind. As expected, that figure fluctuated from year to year in Bazetta, ranging from zero in 2008 to a whopping $731,890 in 2011, following the death of a wealthy resident. Other years the figures hit numbers like $5,056 in 2010; $65,269 in 2009; and $167,801 in 2012.

It’s that one-time $731,890 figure that is skewing the average. In fact, the average estate tax per year without the $731,890 is actually $46,640.

Township officials, however, chose to use the $122,779 average estate tax figure and other state revenue losses totaling $204,069 in their campaign literature promoting why they need the new 1.5 mill-levy. The 1.5-mills would generate $210,542 a year. We submit, however, that the state funds loss actually totals about $128,000 a year.

While we are not attempting to minimize the value of this loss, we believe before heading to the taxpayers, Bazetta officials first should examine other ways to further trim spending. We urge studying the possibility of merging services with neighboring townships or Trumbull County departments. We also would urge an investment into a state performance audit, an analysis by the Ohio Auditor’s Office that could help pinpoint other places the township could generate revenue or save money.

Until that happens, we do not endorse the additional levy that appears on next month’s primary election ballot.