The official who oversees Madison Township's more than 40 miles of roads is blunt in describing their condition.
"Some of the roads, you can see gravel," said Dave Watkins, township public-works superintendent. "We've got roads that are 40 years old, and they've never had anything done to them outside of a little patching here and there. They're basically falling apart."
Adding to the problem is the township's dwindling budget for road repairs.
The worsening situation has township trustees seeking a solution.
"This is a tough decision that has to be made because we've got to fix our roads," trustees chairman John Pritchard said. "As a township, we've gotten away with it by supplementing the roads with the general fund, but now we're at a point where we can't do that anymore."
Trustees have been discussing several options, including seeking a general-fund levy, which would affect all township residents, even those in Canal Winchester and Groveport; asking residents in the township's unincorporated areas to support a roads and bridges levy; or raising the township's inside millage, which is not voted on by residents.
The third option, increasing the inside millage, could be levied without a vote of the residents, according to the Ohio Constitution. The first 10 mills on a property-tax bill are distributed among local governments and schools.
Inside millage is a term referring to the property taxes for which Ohio law authorizes a government entity to collect without a vote. It is limited by law to a maximum of 10 mills.
If trustees decide to raise the inside millage, which affects only residents living in the township's unincorporated areas, they also would consider "rolling off" some of the township's fire levies to keep residents' taxes from increasing or remaining "neutral," Pritchard said.
Residents living in unincorporated areas would see their taxes remain the same, and those who live in Canal Winchester and Groveport would see taxes decrease because they are in incorporated areas and are not affected by the inside millage.
"The reason I might be comfortable with it is that we would be incurring taxes without costing (residents living in unincorporated areas) extra money," trustee John Kershner said. "They'd be paying the same taxes and getting their roads fixed."
The township's fire department budget for this year, $13.3 million, accounts for most of the township's $18.6 million total appropriations, according to township fiscal officer Laurie Vermeer.
The fire department also had a budget carryover of nearly $8 million at the beginning of the year, which could climb to more than $10 million by the end of the year, Pritchard said.
According to interim fire Chief Jeff Fasone, carryovers are "a normal part of all Madison Township department budgets" and that the money is "used for the first three months of the new year for basic expenses" because tax receipts aren't available until late March or early April.
"In the fire department, those basic expenses would be just over $3 million," he said.
Voters have been supportive of the township's fire service, most recently approving a 5.25-mill fire levy in May 2015 to build and maintain a third fire station and replace aging equipment.
"(Trustees are) trying to do a deeper dive into forecasting future expenses to help determine how this carryover money is best utilized," Fasone said.
Voters have not been kind to tax requests for roads, defeating a 3-mill issue in 2002 and a 2.9-mill request in 2005.
Currently, the township receives road funding from four sources, according to Vermeer. They include a 0.6-mill roads-and-bridges levy ($152,200) and funds related to the gas tax ($162,700), motor-vehicle licensure tax ($21,000) and permissive motor-vehicle tax ($132,600).
If trustees decide to raise the inside millage and remove fire levies, they must do so by July 15, according to law.
"These are rough calculations, and we're not going to make any decisions before we have all the facts in place," Pritchard said.
In the meantime, major improvements will be completed in the summer to nearly a mile of road after the township received an Ohio Public Works Commission grant totaling $331,215, Watkins said. The work will be completed on Reinbeau Court, Chipman Drive and Claretta and Rager roads.
"I spent 30 years with the county engineer's office, and I was amazed with the conditions of the roads," Watkins said.