The following responses from each Perry Township trustees candidate to three questions posed by ThisWeek are complete and unedited.
1. What would you consider the most important issue facing the Township?
Andrew English: I think our greatest challenge for our township is taxes. Unlike other Townships in Ohio, Perry Township does not have a growing tax base due to new business and residential development. In my 8 years of as Township Trustee I have acted as liaison to the road department. During that time we have been able to control our costs, and get to an operating model that will allow us to maintain our current road levies at their current tax rate for the foreseeable future. In 2015 we had a police levy that was approved by voters. Prior to this levy we were successful in extending our last Police levy for approximately 10 years. It is critically important that our police have the equipment to do their jobs. However, operational costs continue to increase in this department, therefore we need to make sure we are controlling our costs and making good financial decisions without sacrificing safety and service. My background of running a successful business can help the Township accomplish this.
Jill Reardon: Keeping our property taxes under control is the most important issue for us. When talking to residents, this is what I hear most often. The challenge for Perry Township is how to keep our amazing, high-quality services thriving for years to come, without going back to the taxpayers each time more funds are needed. Getting creative with how to supplement our current funding will be critical. I will pull together a group of citizens and business leaders to explore alternative funding sources. For example, we will look for opportunities within Franklin County Homeland Security Commission to secure equipment or funds to supplement the police department budget. We will explore funds and equipment available to us through the Ohio Public Works Commission, allowing us to extend our roads and bridges levy beyond the expected timeline.
Jim Roper: Safety will always be my number one priority.
Many smaller townships are reducing their police force or are contracting with outside agencies for coverage. At Perry, my focus has always been to help make our already outstanding police department ever better.
When I first became a trustee, we were relying on part time officers to fully staff our police department. When former Chief Oppenheimer recommended adding more full time officers, we were able to accomplish that at no increased cost by saving money in other areas of the department. As the trustee liaison to the police department for the past eight years, I have also worked closely with our chief to help secure over $200,000 in grants for new police equipment at no cost to our taxpayers. I also voted to hire John Petrozzi as our new police chief in 2016 and he has done a terrific job.
Increasing safety while saving money is hard to do. But we are doing just that in Perry Township.
2. In what area is it most important for the Township to collaborate with organizations and municipalities outside of your own boundaries?
Andrew English: A typical homeowner in Perry Township pays about 56% to Worthington Schools, 21% to the Township, 18% for County services and 5% to the library. As stated in the previous question Perry Twp. does not have a growing tax base due to new business and residential development. Therefore we find ourselves in a position of getting creative in how we operate, and still provide a high level of services. Unfortunately, these days we can't do it alone, and in my eight years we have collaborated with other entities to accomplish this. We currently collaborate with Sharon Twp, Franklin County, and the City of Columbus on road improvements and maintenance; Franklin County Sheriff's office for dispatching services; and Upper Arlington and Worthington for Fire and EMS. We also collaborate on smaller items like Mosquito spraying with Franklin County. We are always searching for new ways to collaborate with other entities to provide the residents of Perry a high level of return on the taxes they pay.
Jill Reardon: There are two vitally important areas Perry township should be partnering with outside organizations on. While Perry Township does not have its own fire department, we do rely on contracts with the City of Worthington and Upper Arlington fire departments to provide emergency services to our residents. Our police officers, at times, are dispatched to go on emergencies with those fire departments, so collaboration and planning are critical to ensure safety of residents and our first responders. We need to ensure our officers are adequately prepared for these situations by attending training and emergency drills with these partnering municipalities. This means officers will be pulled off the street to attend training. In order to do so, it is critical to have enough officers to cover for those who are going through training – while still maintaining a presence in your neighborhood and responding to emergency calls.
The second vitally important area is funding options. At Perry Township, we benefit from grant dollars being awarded to our township or specific township department. These grants are awarded when a township employee learns of and applies for the grant. Trustees do not find or write the grant proposals, but our department heads and employees do. This is not their full-time assignment, however. Therefore, it would bring in more grant dollars to have someone dedicated to that task. Perry Township has, in the past, had additional people help locate grants that our township employees can apply for. Those same people then lobby the grant entity as to why it is important that we receive the money. Having someone in that role – to locate and the lobby on our behalf – will bring in thousands more dollars than we are today.
Jim Roper: The short answer is shared services. In other words, working with other local governments to save money. Here are two great examples:
When I first became a Perry Trustee, I noticed that the Township was spending an enormous amount of money for radio dispatch services. We therefore decided to partner with the City of Worthington for radio dispatch. That shared services agreement resulted in an annual savings of over $200,000/year for Perry Township. Additionally, we recently renegotiated our radio dispatch service agreement with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office for an even greater savings to the Township. The same great service at a reduced cost.
We also entered into a shared services agreement for mosquito spraying. Previously, Perry did its own spraying. However, increasing material and equipment costs became a concern. By partnering with Franklin County, we saved money and maintained the same great service that our residents expect. A true "win-win" for our taxpayers.
3. What else would you like to say to voters?
Andrew English: My priorities has always been increasing safety, saving taxpayer money, and protecting property values. It is my opinion that if we provide our residents with a safe community along with great services, and at the same time control our costs for providing those services, we can continue the strong real estate market that currently exists in Perry Township. Perry Township is still a very sought after community within Franklin County. I want to make sure we continue this trend. Since moving to Perry Township in 2004 I have always been active in the community. I served on the civic association for 5 years, before being elected to the Board of Trustees. I am currently involved on various groups and boards at Worthington Kilbourne High School. For the past 10 years I have operated a successful business, and I use this experience in managing the Township operations. Experience and leadership is the difference in this election. My pledge is to always to do what is best for the residents.
Jill Reardon: Perry Township will continue to have challenges in the area of first responders because the federal government is requiring a significant amount of additional training. (In fact, the number of hours has more than doubled over the past couple years and is expected to double again soon.) While training is an absolute necessity, we do not currently have the financial or staff resources to be able to balance the training requirements with our day-to-day requirements of patrolling your community. Therein lies the necessity of finding alternative funding sources.
A trustee’s job is to not only oversee the management of township departments, but to proactively engage with residents. Decisions made as an elected official should be based on input from the residents. I vow to make decisions based on this input. You deserve a board of trustees who represents YOU and what YOU want to maintain as the integrity of your neighborhood. I will lead with proactive and responsive communication and actively seek out and be responsive to all constituents.
Choosing Perry Township as my home has been one of the best decisions of my life. I’m excited to have the opportunity to put my business background and commitment to civic service to work for you - my community. I humbly ask for your vote for Perry Township Trustee.
Jim Roper: Experience and proven leadership is the difference in this election.
When I first became a trustee, Perry was relying on part-time officers to staff our police force. We were overspending for radio dispatch services. Not all township residents were included in our tax base. There was no such thing as trash recycling. And, we had very little ability to communicate with residents. I worked hard to change all of that.
We now have more full time officers. We reduced costs through shared services for radio dispatch. We now include all residents in our tax base which resulted in a tax decrease to over 95% of residents. We improved communication by developing a township website, Facebook page, quarterly newsletter and an email system where residents can be quickly notified of important news. We also added curbside recycling.
I will continue to work hard to find new and improved ways to make Perry Township even better. Most importantly, because of sound fiscal planning and decisions made over the past eight years, I pledge not to ask for any new or increased tax levies if re-elected.