Commission decides Richland Township tax opt out

Posted August 9, 2017 at 3:57 pm

By Julie Ann Madden

Should the Union County Commissioners double the Tax Opt Out to maintain the township’s roads and bridges?

The commissioners have control of Richland Township since it is not an organized township. Therefore, the county maintains its roads and bridges, collecting revenues and paying expenditures.

“The last four years’ expenditures have been averaging about $90,000,” said Commission Chairman Milt Ustad at their June 20 meeting.

Auditor Carol Klumper explained their regular tax base nets about $47,000 annually, and the Richland Township has about another $17,000 in “other” revenues. For 2017, county officials are projecting $63,862 in revenues without any tax opt out.

We always take as much Consumer Price Index (CPI) and valuation growth for levy increases,” said Klumper.

The commissioners began collecting a $10,000 tax opt out in 2012 but it is not covering expenditures.

To make up the revenue shortfall with current expenditures, commissioners would need to double the tax opt out to $20,000, said Klumper.

Commissioner Kevin Joffer wanted to know what Public Works Director Paul Limoges thought it’ll take to do the coming year.

Limoges reported via phone that as of June 30, 2016, the county had spent $93,936.04 but this year as of the meeting, the county had spent only $38,356.26.

“It’s pretty hard to predict what we’ll spend on snow removal,” said Ustad.

Commissioner Michael Dailey wanted to know how Richland Township’s tax levy rate compares with other townships.

Klumper informed the commission Richland Township is paying more of a township levy than any of the other ones. One reason is it has the lowest taxable valuation of any of the townships.

“I don’t know if it’s because the county does a good job with their roads — spending more than other townships do,” said Klumper about Richland Township’s expenditures.

Dailey noted Richland Township looks to be the smallest in size, too.

Commissioner Richard Headid pointed out the five-year average was $92,000 while the four-year average is $84,000.

“We need about $25,000 to break even,” said Ustad, suggesting a tax opt out for $15,000.

“If we’re half way through, and we’ve spent only $38,000, you’re looking at $76,000,” said Headid. “If you do $10,000, you should be real close.”

Joffer suggested sticking with $10,000.

“Look at it next year,” said Joffer, “and stick within our budget. Right now we’re setting arbitrary numbers above $10,000. I hate throwing out numbers I can’t support.”

“Plus, you have the other townships which are pulling their weight,” he said. “You have to be careful there.”

“They all get to pay a little bit of that township,” said Dailey.

Part of the problem is Henke Road where a lot of people live — it takes quite a bit of money, said Ustad. “The rest of the township is still paying the bill. I guess there’s nothing we can do about that.”

“Nothing says we have to do what we’re doing now,” said Joffer. “If we maintain the road like we do all the other county road — it’s nice to have those extra things but how many people actually have that? It sounds like an expensive thing to do.”

“You don’t want to create a situation where down the road your townships are saying what are we doing this for; you guys are picking up the tab,” said Joffer.

Can we assess the property owners who live on that road? asked Commissioner Tom Kimmel.

“They’d have to create a road district,” said Klumper. “We don’t have any.”

“If you live in that jurisdiction, that’s the way it is,” said Headid “You have to pay where you live. You have people who live on a lake and people who don’t. They pay the property taxes based on where they’re at.”

“If we opt out for $15,000 instead of $10,000, we’d be up to close to $80,000,” said Ustad.

“This year we’re going to be at $76,000 (expenses) so we’re going to be close,” said Headid. “I don’t think that’s an unreasonable amount.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” said Joffer, “until we get a control of what’s going on. I think we’ve got a picture.”

Last year, an extra mile of Henke Road was sprayed with “mag water” dust control.

“It’s kind of like that extra mile — What was driving (doing the extra mile) — was it complaints of people who live along there?” said Joffer. “Those are all unknowns now.”

It was noted some county residents pay for this dust control out of their own pockets in other townships.

“How many of these other townships are going to say, ‘they are doing it for Richland Township, why don’t they come do it for us,’” asked Dailey.

“The answer would be you’re an organized township and you take care of your own roads,” said Klumper.

“Go a year, then reassess it,” suggested Joffer. “If we need to go more, we go more. I think it’s dangerous to go higher right now without any more information.”

It depends on how much roads need gravel and resurfacing, said Headid.

Commissioner Tom Kimmel said if it was raised now, it might indicate to the Richland Township property owners, there is a problem — just not clobber them next year.

Joffer would like to know what the big issues for Richland Township are from the next Public Works director.

Joffer made the motion to do a $10,000 Tax Opt Out for one year and then reassess it, and Headid seconded it. The vote was unanimous.

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