Thursday, March 25, 2004

Green Twp. may need levy this fall



By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

GREEN TOWNSHIP - Leaders in one of the state's most populated townships are implementing several cost-cutting measures now in anticipation of a squeezed budget during the next several years.

In a township of about 60,000, the fire department will cut down on hours by reducing its staffing from 17 firefighters per shift to 15.

This is a move that will save the township $100,000 over 12 months, township Administrator Kevin Celarek said.

And a township trustee suggested at this week's meeting that the township begin a financial review committee to review expenses and revenue forecasts.

The talks of tight finances prompted Trustee Stephen Grote to say bluntly this week: "What everyone is not trying to say here is, 'There's going to be a tax increase in Green Township soon.'"

Grote and Trustee Tony Upton both said it's possible there could be a levy on the ballot soon to help the township with its finances; Grote said he'd rather have it on the November ballot when more people turn out to vote in the presidential race, than in the spring election, when turnout is lower.

The deadline to put a levy on the November ballot is Aug. 19.

In the fire department staffing reduction, none of the 33 full-time firefighters or more than 40 part-time firefighters will be laid off.

But each of the township's five firefighting crews will be at the minimum staffing level of three firefighters for every shift.

"This is all about savings in overtime," Celarek said. "It won't be noticeable to the ordinary citizen. We really just need to stretch our budget as much as possible."

Without the extra firefighters on duty, the township will have to cut down on fire inspections, fire prevention programs at schools, and reviews of new residential and business developments to see if they meet fire codes.

At this week's meeting, Ttrustee Chuck Mitchell said he wants to start a financial review committee, and the other trustees agreed to the idea in principle.

Mitchell said having a group of experts review the township budget would help township leaders with financial planning with the budget crunch that should come within several years as township revenue continues dwindling.

Green Township has a budget of $25.8 million, but about $7 million goes directly to schools or roads.

Most of the remaining $18.8 million budget goes to personnel costs.

"We're pretty well lean and mean right now," said Upton, president of the board. "We can't cut much more without cutting staff."

Township officials like to brag that they've kept property taxes in Green Township at a standstill for longer than just about any other community in Hamilton County, but a levy proposal might be on the ballot soon.

"We've been fortunate the past eight years since we put our (tax increment financing program) together that we haven't had to increase taxes," Grote said.

E-mail rforgrave@enquirer.com




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