Orange Township trustees plan to keep the same level of contracted Delaware County sheriff's deputies' coverage, even though the levy that would have provided funds for the program failed.

Orange Township trustees plan to keep the same level of contracted Delaware County sheriff's deputies' coverage, even though the levy that would have provided funds for the program failed.

A proposed 0.5-mill police protection levy for the township lost by 128 votes Nov. 2. A similar township levy expired in 2008.

The program which pays for eight deputies working full time in the township currently is paid for with general fund revenues. The annual cost is about $400,000.

Elected officials gave several thoughts on why the levy failed: the tough economy, the general mood of the country, a lack of campaigners for the levy and a misunderstanding about the township's fund balances.

The township has a balance of about $20-million carried over each year, but half of those funds are allocated, said fiscal officer Joel Spitzer.

The township has 14 active revenue funds. Several other funds have no money and are inactive, such as the "police district fund," which was created to receive revenue from the now-expired police levy.

It is estimated those 14 active funds will contain $21-million on Jan. 1.

About $11.5-million of that total is in the general fund. About $10-million of that total is in the other 13 funds and can be used only for specific expenses, such as maintenance, road improvement, parks operations, park improvement expenses, and fire department employees, equipment and facilities.

The general fund pays for the operations of the fiscal office, the elected officials, and the zoning and administration departments. It also is used to supplement larger road improvement programs, such as that being done on East Orange Road, because the designated road funds don't bring in enough, Spitzer said.

Unlike many townships, Orange doesn't have a road and bridges levy. Its road funds, estimated to be $276,970 in 2011, come from distributions from state and county taxes.

Trustees are discussing creating capital improvement funds with some of the general-fund carryover balance.

Those funds would be used only for a specified capital improvement and must be spent within five or 10 years, depending on the type of fund that is created, Spitzer said.

"Designating accounts for a specific purpose, like capital improvements, helps to provide clarity for township staff, and for residents who want to know what the dollars will be used for," said trustee Jennifer Christian.

One use of those funds, trustee Nelson Katz said, would be completion of the Orange Road improvements west of South Old State Road.

Originally, there were four segments included in the total Orange Road improvement project, based on findings from the county engineer: segment 1 from state Route 315 to U.S. Route 23, segment 2 from U.S. 23 to the railroad tracks, segment 3 from the railroad tracks to South Old State Road and Segment 4 from South Old State Road to Bale Kenyon Road.

Segment 4, for instance, is going to run the township close to $5-million. None of the work is yet scheduled.

The township plans other major capital improvement projects, as well, Katz said.

Not including supplementing large road improvements, such as $5-million toward those on East Orange Road, the general fund expenditures are projected to be about $1.8-million in 2010, which includes the cost of deputies, Spitzer said.

The general fund revenue for 2010 is estimated to be $2.5-million. That revenue comes from inside millage, which is an automatic property tax established by the state that is not voted on.

The balance in the general fund was built up during the years of rapid growth in the township, thanks to the fiscally conservative leadership of trustees past and present, Spitzer said.

Asked what a healthy and wise carryover balance would be, Spitzer said he would not want to see anything less than 50 percent of annual expenditures in the individual funds.

Trustee Robert Quigley's response was similar to Spitzer's.

"It is prudent to maintain additional funds in case of an emergency situation, as any person would do with their own finances. Many of us have seen other municipalities and townships struggling, and we would not want to be in that situation. It is ideal to have on hand an amount to cover a year's worth of expenditures. That is not always possible but I would recommend having at least half available to cover annual expenditures in case of an emergency," Quigley said.

The trustees said they would prefer to see dedicated funds used for contracted sheriff deputies, but they don't see asking voters for those funds in the near future.