Liberty Twp. taxpayers won’t be asked for fire, EMS tax hike

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Trustees decide to wait on putting a fire levy on the November ballot

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Liberty Twp. trustees were poised earlier this summer to ask taxpayers for a tax hike in November for fire and emergency medical services , but with continued exploding growth both on the commercial and residential front, the trustees have chosen to wait, giving themselves time to gauge the true tax base.

“I don’t feel comfortable until we have all the figures and do our due diligence to be able to go out to our residents with this at this point,” Trustee Christine Matacic said. “Especially with some of these properties that are not on line and if they come on line, then what it means is whatever millage we would have would be spread out so each homeowner would be paying less.”

RELATED: Township not yet reaping huge proceeds from Liberty Center

The township is the fastest growing jurisdiction in Butler County and its tax base is changing, according to Julie Joyce-Smith, real estate manager for the county auditor’s office.

"Carriage Hill, it was a Homearama area, those are high-end homes. We started seeing those come onto the tax rolls last year, but I think that was just kind of the starting point," she said. "When Liberty has asked us some questions about their growth, we're saying you're still going to be picking up some new residential property."

Carriage Hill is a $275 million, 500-unit subdivision along Ohio 747. Township zoning permit numbers show 169 new single family homes this year versus 140 through July last year. Liberty showed a 4.4 percent increase in property values between 2014 and 2015 where all other taxing jurisdictions were in the one percent range or below.

Trustee Board President Tom Farrell previously told the Journal-News that trustees needed to continue to study the numbers before asking taxpayers for a levy.

“As we look through the seven-year forecast and where we stand, there’s too many unanswered questions for us to go forward,” Farrell said. “We need to do some additional due diligence in my opinion. We need to take a look at exactly where we’re at and make sure we’re at bare bones before we ask for any more money.”

If the township remains status quo, the fire and EMS fund balance, estimated to be $1.1 million to start next year, will evaporate and put the fund into the negative to the tune of $233,439 by the start of 2018.

“We are definitely heading into the negative if we don’t do some thing soon,” Township Administrator Kristen Bitonte told trustees last month. “Red is not good.”

The trustees started talking levy in June and did get information from the county auditor’s office on how much a 3, 3.5 and 4 mill levy would collect and cost the owner of a $100,000 home.

Numbers from the auditor’s office revealed a 3-mill levy would garner $1.7 million in additional funds and cost $105; 3.5 mills would pull in $2.9 million and cost $122; and a 4-mill levy would result in $3.4 million in new money and cost $140.

The existing levy from 2010 and the 1999 levy will bring in an estimated $4.8 million to cover $6.2 million in expenses in 2017. The cost to the same $100,000 home taxpayer is estimated at $178.

Trustee Steve Schramm said while the numbers are tight he’s willing to wait until they have fully vetted the issue.

“I don’t have any problem with taking a little more time to do due diligence,” he said. “It sounds like budgetarily we can make it work, the numbers don’t look spectacular, but we can make it work and I’d rather have the right story than the wrong story.”