Ross Twp. no longer eligible for federal low-income funding

Officials in Ross are now having to prove some areas are still in need to qualify for federal community development funding.

That’s because the folks residing there are making more money.

Township Administrator Laurie Kile told the Journal-News a low-to-moderate income area in the southeast section of the township that was once eligible for federal Community Development Block Grant funds no longer qualifies.

Butler County’s development department manages the federal funding program and she said Community Development Administrator Susan Ellerhorst delivered the bad news late last year.

“I told her you know you can just drive a quarter mile south and turn left or right and see it appears Ross has low-to-moderate income,” Kile said.

Previous data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development showed a section of the township including Main Street, Sunshine Drive, Larry Lane and a few other streets qualified for CDBG funding because 51% of the residents are at the low-to-moderate income level. A family of four making $76,400 or less falls into that category.

Ellerhorst said that section of Ross qualified under the previous HUD map but doesn’t now.

The latest map from 2020 shows nowhere in the township qualifies for the federal funding. Every year the Butler County commissioners receive just over $1 million in CDBG funding, this year the grant is $1.3 million. Over the last five years Ross has received $164,000 from the commissioners.

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Ellerhorst said when communities ask the commissioners for CDBG funding for projects — like street repairs, parks and sidewalks and other projects — and they are not identified on the HUD map as LMI they can do a survey to qualify.

“If the proposed project is in an area on the Low-Moderate Income Areas, Butler County 2020 map that is not 51% LMI or greater, the applicant can use the income survey to justify the project service area will benefit LMI persons,” she said.

As a result of the change in status with HUD Kile said they are going door-to-door contacting 47 residents in that area. So far five people have refused to complete the survey, they still need to approach people at seven of the addresses.

Trustee Ellen Yordy told the Journal-News she is contacting several of the remaining property owners to ensure they can get qualified. She said their Road Superintendent Paul Bulach said getting funding for the roads in that area is critical.

“It enables those township residents to get their roads paved through this block grant with no cost to them,” Yordy said. “Otherwise their roads will continue to deteriorate and if Paul Bulach says these roads need to be done, they need to be done. This is an easy way to get them improved and it’s beneficial to the residents.”

Ellerhorst told the Journal-News since 2019 several communities have submitted surveys to qualify for funding they include: Milford, Morgan, Reily and Wayne townships, Millville, Monroe and Trenton. Several submitted surveys a couple times and Milford Twp. did surveys for the past three years.

The surveys are very simple, people don’t need to sign their names or give their exact income, just circle a range, for example a family of four earning $28,651 to $47,750 annually is in the 50% LMI bracket.

Milford Twp. Trustee Paul Gillespie told the Journal-News he’s canvased the township with the survey.

“When I’ve gone around I’ve only had a couple people balk at telling how much they’re making,” Gillespie said. “And I said I’m not asking what you make, just what bracket you fall in, we don’t care what you make.”

He said with areas like Darrtown and Somerville in the township he can’t believe they don’t make the HUD low-to-moderate income map and Oxford does. However HUD evidently counts Miami students, most of whom don’t have jobs.

The commissioners have given the township $190,000 over the past five years and Gillespie said since he has been a trustee they have probably received close $1 million and owe their community center to the funding.

The outside funding is essential, he said ”without that you’d be sunk.”=

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