Friday, February 6, 2004

Property transfer opposed

Liberty Twp. says Monroe will have fight on its hands

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LIBERTY TWP. - Township trustees say they will oppose Monroe's effort to transfer about 300 homes from Liberty into neighboring Lemon Township.

Monroe City Council Tuesday will ask the Butler County commissioners to change the jurisdiction of the Lee Meadows and Country Estates subdivisions to make it easier for the county and city to borrow money, said Jay Stewart, city planning director and acting finance director.

The swap would have virtually no impact on homeowners in the area, which was annexed by Monroe in the early 1980s, he said. The city provides police, fire and road service, he said. The subdivisions also will remain in the Lakota Local School District, Stewart said.

Liberty officials were unhappy Wednesday to learn by e-mail about Monroe's plans.

"The suddenness of this - less than a week's notice - is not reasonable," said Trustee David Kern. He plans to lobby commissioners against the transfer, while Trustees President Christine Matacic promises to send a delegation to Tuesday's council meeting.

"I have grave concerns about the impact this would have on our residents. We owe it to them to sit down and talk to them (about this)," said Matacic, also Liberty Township acting administrator.

"I'd like to ask questions before this happens. I don't think anyone here is going to like it," said Joseph Mullins of Stillpass Way, which is in both Monroe and Liberty Township.

Matacic said she is worried that the area could be switched to the Monroe Local School District.

"This doesn't have anything to do with the schools," said Suzi Rubin, a Monroe council member and former Monroe school board member.

Removing the area from Liberty and assigning it to tiny Lemon Township would help all governments in the county, said Tim Williams, Butler County purchasing director.

The move would reduce the constitutional debt limitations for the overlapping political jurisdictions of Monroe, which extends into two counties (Butler, Warren), two school districts (Monroe, Lakota) and three townships (Liberty, Lemon, Turtlecreek), said Abbot Thayer, the city's bond lawyer from Peck, Shaffer & Williams.

"This just gives the city some room to maneuver under the constitutional debt limitations" tied to the 10 mills of unvoted taxes, commonly called the "inside millage," he said.

County and Monroe officials, and Thayer, say the transaction will make it easier for Monroe, Liberty Township and Butler County to obtain bond note financing. The move is not related to Monroe's deficits in several funds two years ago, which could result in the state auditor declaring a fiscal emergency or fiscal watch this spring, said Thayer and Stewart.

"Basically, this is just a housekeeping issue. It's not like an annexation or anything," Rubin said.


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