Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Green Township considers tax levy



By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer

GREEN TOWNSHIP - Trustees in Hamilton County's second-largest township moved a step closer Monday to putting a tax levy on the November ballot.

Trustees passed a resolution asking the Hamilton County auditor to determine how much money would be generated from a 3-mill property tax levy. The move is the first step in placing a levy on the ballot.

Township Clerk Tom Strauss said 1 mill typically generates a little more than $1 million in tax revenue. He estimated a 3-mill levy would net the township about $3.1 million a year.

The township is experiencing a $2.5 million annual shortfall in its general fund, which threatens to affect police and fire services in the next two years. The township, with an annual budget about $25.8 million, has faced financial struggles in recent years, largely because of cuts in state funding.

A financial review committee, formed in April to examine the township's expenses going back five years, concluded that the township would face a significant deficit by 2006 unless costs were cut or new sources of revenue found. The committee presented trustees with a 15-page report of its findings last week.

"In my opinion, I think we are going to have to put the levy on, because our costs have gone up so much lately," Strauss said.

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

Strauss said it is important to get a levy on the ballot this year because the township probably wouldn't start collecting money from it until the start of 2006. The levy, he said, would be primarily for police, fire and other public safety services.

The financial review committee's report showed that the township's general fund has been hit by the loss of more than $3 million in state funds since 2000. Meanwhile, expenses have increased by 12 percent - or $1.5 million - since 1999, driven largely by increases in salaries, benefits and retirement costs, the report said.

Those labor-related costs will account for roughly 68 percent of Green Township's total expenses this year.

The report said the deficit could be avoided by reducing operating expenses by 35 percent and labor-related costs by 16 percent, or a staff reduction of about 17 positions. However, the committee concluded those weren't practical.

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E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com




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