As Vienna trustees discuss what to do with a $3.9 million windfall, they should engage their residents and think big. Really big.
The money comes from the estate tax of Industrialist John Rebhan, who owned and operated Warren Fabricating and Machining Corp. and Ohio Steel Sheet & Plate before his death in December 2008. When the money is released from the estate, the township will receive a lump sum that is nearly four times its annual budget of $1.1 million.
''Each trustee is the liaison with the different departments, and we are each making lists for our individual departments by talking with the chiefs and superintendents,'' Vienna Trustee Phil Pegg said.
''We've tossed things around and we've had a couple work sessions about what we'd like to do,'' Vienna Trustee Heidi Brown said. ''No decisions have been made, but road paving, improvements to the fire station, improvements to town hall, those are some of the ideas being tossed around.''
That's just not thinking big enough.
How's this? A free post-secondary education for every Vienna resident who attends Mathews Schools from kindergarten through high school graduation and attends a Mahoning Valley college or trade school.
Think about it. The money sits until next year's kindergartners graduate. When the first class begins to cash in, the pot could have grown to about $5.5 million. The college fund might be able to sustain itself in perpetuity by just spending the interest.
Now the township becomes abundantly attractive to young couples starting families. With the shale boom on the horizon, the timing is perfect for Vienna to grow its tax base through a population spike and corresponding increase in property values. Likewise, Mathews Schools would experience a revenue increase from the higher property values, population growth and state funding from an enrollment increase. Realtors would have a field day marketing Vienna.
All of the spending trustees and department heads are discussing could take place later with increased tax collections and building permits from the growth. The rush would begin immediately as families move in to take advantage of the reward offered to the first class to receive free college tuition.
No doubt, many details would need to be ironed out. There might need to be a cap or personal match on tuition coverage, for example.
There might even be a better use for the Rebhan estate tax. We're only going to find the best use with more people engaged in the discussion and thinking outside of the box.