After debate, Liberty Twp. residents face no new taxes for police protection

Liberty Twp. residents and businesses will pay the same price for police protection for the next five years, unless explosive growth increases the need for more manpower sooner.

The trustees voted 2-1 Thursday to ask voters to approve a renewal levy in November. They have been debating the issue for several months, trying to anticipate future needs in the township that has quadrupled in size in two decades.

Trustees Tom Farrell and Steve Schramm agreed to a wait-and-see approach, approving a straight renewal of the 3-mill levy. Trustee Christine Matacic said she is concerned the township looks like it is “unprepared” for future growth.

RELATED: Liberty Twp. official reverses on police levy, tax increase not likely

“Our taxpayers don’t want us to come back now and then in two years come back to them again,” she said. “Because that makes it look like we’re not prepared and building towards the future for them. That’s my biggest concern.”

She has argued for a renewal plus a new 0.50-mill levy, which would have cost an extra $17 per $100,000 of valuation. She said she has polled residents and they were willing to pay “a little bit extra” to prepare for the future.

The township is renegotiating a new five-year contract with the Butler County Sheriff’s Office. Major Mike Craft has recommended that the growing township add four new deputies over the course of the contract. The renewal doesn’t allow for any new personnel.

The 3-mill levy generates about $2.3 million, and the sheriff’s contract cost just less than $2.8 million this year. The township has some smaller revenue sources to pay for the contract, as well.

Schramm was siding with Matacic for a while but switched gears recently. The township will need to find another funding source to sustain the four months between the end of the next levy and the first cash installment of a new levy in April 2025.

Schramm said if they are running low on funds at the end of the sheriff’s contract they can ask the county to release early tax payments which should carry them through and if not, they can tap the general fund for a short-term loan.

“That April date is when they have to distribute the funds but we can actually petition for them earlier if we’re concerned,” he said. “So the last year in November we can say we want our money as soon as you get it if we feel like it’ll be an issue. So I feel like I’ve got enough safeguards so let’s save our residents a million bucks.”

Trustee Tom Farrell has been against raising taxes from the beginning. He did a survey of other, similarly situated jurisdictions in the region and found Liberty residents pay about $73 each compared to the average of $160.

MORE: Butler County bill for police protection: $113 million. But not everyone pays the same.

Liberty is the only jurisdiction paying the sheriff for police protection in the county. The cities, Fairfield, Ross and West Chester townships and New Miami all have their own police departments. The sheriff patrols the rest of the county — Liberty’s contract is for 90 percent of the total cost — for free.

The Journal-News did its own study of Butler County police budgets and found Liberty Twp. has the lowest per capita cost and Monroe the highest at $355.

Farrell said having sheriff’s deputies dedicated to protecting their residents and an outpost are crucial.

“The bottom line is what we have with the sheriff’s department is we have the entire county resources at our disposal, if we need them they will be there,” Farrell said. “Not having people on the street on a regular basis does not make sense. So having your own officers that are dedicated to the township gives them familiarity with the township, they know the roads, they know the people, they know the businesses, therefore they can patrol and service the residents better.”

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