Grove City Record

Tax budget raises alarm for township trustees

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The Jackson Township Board of Trustees approved its 2015 tax budget last week, but concerns about falling revenue and rising expenses are prompting more discussion.

The board voted unanimously on Tuesday, July 1, on what Township Administrator Mike Lilly said is a "snapshot" of the township's finances.

"It's a worksheet," Lilly said. "It starts with making reasonable, empirical assumptions on spending and revenue. It is subject to change."

The tax budget, to be submitted for review to the Franklin County Auditor's Office by July 17, is part of the annual budget process and will be followed later in the year with updated appropriations legislation.

Currently, the township estimates its general fund will receive $1.2 million in revenue in 2015 and spend $2.5 million, resulting in a deficit of $1.3 million. The year-end cash balance is predicted to go down to $192,225, down from the projected 2014 year-end balance of $1.5 million.

Meanwhile, the fire fund is projected to have a deficit of $318,670, the result of revenue being $9.2 million and expenses being $9.5 million. The year-end cash balance will be $222,950.

"That balance continues to go down, and it doesn't get replenished," Lilly said.

The township's road fund is projected to have $462,465 in revenue and $568,515 in expenses, a difference of $106,050. The ending cash balance of that fund is estimated to be just under $270,000. The road fund, Lilly said, tends to cycle as the township saves money and spends it on resurfacing roads.

"The road fund is in the black and will remain so next year and into the foreseeable future," Lilly said. "I would describe it as solvent."

Overall, the township anticipates having combined revenues of $12.4 million and expenditures of $14.5 million in 2015, a deficit of slightly more than $2 million -- which will be covered by dipping into carryover balances.

Since 2010, township expenditures have remained relatively flat, expenditures have risen steadily and the year-end cash balance has fallen from about $6 million to $824,235 by the end of 2015.

Part of the reason for the imbalance are changes made at the state level.

Those changes have cut money sent to the township from Ohio's local government fund, eliminated the estate tax and is phasing out reimbursement of the already eliminated personal property tax, or inventory tax, previously levied on business property. All these changes, Lilly said, have a cumulative effect on the township budget.

"Our positions are reflected throughout the state of Ohio because there has been a conscious policy decision by the state to shift the burden of costs down to the local level," Lilly said. "This is nothing new."

The tax budget does not include the cost of needed repairs at a number of township buildings, officials said.

"These buildings are deteriorating rapidly," said Trustee Chairman David Burris. "We've got a whole list of things we've got to address."

Trustee Stephen Bowshier said the board needs to decide what to do.

"We can't continue like this," Bowshier said. "We definitely need a plan to address this."

The board was scheduled to meet in a special meeting Tuesday, July 8, to further review the tax budget.

"It is an ongoing problem, but we need several more meetings to really look at it," Lilly said. "We need to take a look at where we're at and where we're going."

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