Liberty Twp. trustees mulling additional $5 vehicle registration tax

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Liberty Twp. Trustees discuss $5 additional vehicle registration tax.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Liberty Twp. is considering an additional $5 vehicle registration tax to help keep up with road maintenance in the rapidly growing suburb.

When the legislature passed the transportation bill earlier this year that included increasing the gas tax, it included a provision that allows local jurisdictions to increase taxes for vehicle registration. Township Administrator Kristen Bitonte said the township already collects a $5-per-vehicle fee, and tacking on an additional tax would bring in $186,000 more annually.

Trustee Christine Matacic brought up the topic during a hearing Friday that focused on the township’s spending plans for 2020.

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“In our (road fund) forecast, 2020 we’re doing fine, ‘21 we’re down to $185,000 roughly in carryover, 2022 we’ve got a negative $35,000,” she said. “So 2022 is not that far off and that’s why I figured we need to talk about this now, so we can be responsible, approach it in a logical way.”

Trustee Steve Schramm said he favors the user fee and wants residents to be well-informed.

“Don’t you feel like this is something worth communicating to our electorate?” Schramm said. “Basically it’s one of the few areas where we get to tax them and they can’t do a thing about it. I get a little uncomfortable with that.”

Matacic said the issue would be fully vetted and communicated to the residents.

“I think it’s obvious I’ve been called a little stingy when it comes to increases in taxes,” Trustee Tom Farrell said. “But this is one of my priorities obviously, on the roads and finding a way to fund it. I think this is a very good way to fund it. I like the idea of getting input back from the residents if we can, but this is a use tax and it’s a great way to add some additional revenue.”

The proposed budget includes $29.3 million in revenues for all funds to cover $28.9 million in estimated expenses. The operating fund includes $17.3 million in expenses supported by $18 million in revenues and carryover of $28.5 million.

An interchange at Millikin Road over Interstate 75 remains one of the township’s top priorities, and the next step will include a $400,000 feasibility study.

There are about 1,200 undeveloped acres slated for commercial development in the Millikin Road area — which would hold the equivalent of 12 Liberty Centers — and another 1,200 acres would be opened up when Cox Road is extended to Ohio 63 if an interchange is built at Millikin Road.

“It’s everything Millikin,” Schramm said about his priority list. “I think we’re moving to a different stage in the Millikin discussion, now it’s dialing for dollars. I think we’re going to have to put a good bit of energy into how that’s going to play out and how we’re going to continue to market it.”

The “purpose and need” process is almost completed with the Ohio Department of Transportation and now Bitonte told the Journal-News the feasibility study will focus on what needs to happen to mitigate the traffic.

The fire department is the biggest spending item for the township with an $8.1 million budget. Fire Chief Ethan Klussman’s department was successful in obtaining $1.36 million in Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response and Assistance to Firefighters (SAFER) grants to hire nine firefighters.

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The federal hiring grants pay for 75 percent of the salaries and benefits for two years and 35 percent in the third year.

Fighting for the shrinking pool of part-time firefighters/medics has become very difficult all over the region, so Klussman said hiring more full-time staff was the best move. The trustees have all said the township can sustain the positions after the grants expire.

Klussman said about 126 applied, and they have narrowed the candidate field to 18, whom he will interview next week. He said seven or eight of them are internal part-time employes. He expects the new hires to start Jan. 6.

The township is also building a new fire station and making repairs to the other two stations. Klussman expects to break ground next year and open in 2021. Bitonte told the trustees they will be selling bonds to cover the cost of both the fire station and the new administration center/sheriff’s outpost that is currently under construction.

The township sold bond anticipation notes to get started on the project that cost about $4.8 million, including the land. The township paid $954,000 for the land in an office park on Ohio 747 between Princeton and Millikin roads for the 15,000-square-foot building last year.