Road levy a top priority for township

CALCUTTA — With daily operations and expenditures rising within its road department, St. Clair Township officials believe the need for a road levy is important.

Township residents will have the opportunity once again to determine the outcome of the proposed five-year, 2-mill road levy as it returns to the ballot Nov. 8 — the fifth time officials have attempted a road levy.

If passed, it will be the township’s first ever road levy, something trustees have said it greatly needs as state funding has been cut and finances for services have taken a hit.

“I think we’re all in agreement here that this is something needed for quite some time,” Trustee James Hall said. “We kind of operated on a shoestring here lately trying to keep the road department going in doing the best we can as far as taking care of the roads for the township.

“With the cost of materials going up and the equipment getting older, our repairs are getting larger, so it’s something we definitely need. It’s not something that we’re just trying to get passed. We’re not crying wolf, in other words.”

Levy funds would be used for the operation of the road department — helping to maintain the township’s roads while also aiding road department’s projects.

Trustees James Sabatini, chairman, and Robert Swickard both said that while the township has made due with whatever available finances they’ve had, the supply is running out.

“Just look at the age of our equipment,” Sabatini said. “That alone will tell you how long it’s been. We have equipment from 1989, the newest truck is 2004. We’ve put band-aid after band-aid after band-aid on it, and the box is empty. There’s no more band-aids in the box.”

“The one thing that has been for certain over the last several years is that we have done as much as we could with the dollars that we had, and the reality is that over the last decade, we’ve had the same dollars, but costs have went up and we’ve been able to do less and less,” Swickard added. “In order to do more, we need more dollars. It’s a simple mathematic equation.”

Swickard said regardless of the outcome, township officials will continue to do whatever possible with the available dollars, including prioritizing needed projects.

In past meetings, trustees have stated that should the levy fail and roads are not properly maintained, the value of township homes would decrease. Furthermore, without property funding, the township may be forced to cancel its participation in the county’s chip-and-seal program.

“We need to protect our property values in our subdivisions and all of the roads in our township,” Sabatini said. “We want to institute our blacktop program. I know we have a program in place, but we haven’t been able to utilize it because there are no funds to get into it.

“As for the chip-and-seal program, we even talked about possibly bring back our own chip-and-seal program that we used to have, but had to suspend because there were no funds. If it wasn’t for the county, we wouldn’t even have that program.”

In the most recent levy attempt, this past March, voters failed the proposed measure by nine votes.

However, as trustees have also noted from each attempt, support for the levy has increased from ballot-to-ballot, and trustees are hopeful the end result will be levy passage.

“We’ve been encouraged over the last couple of tries,” Sabatini said. “When you look at the original voting that went on in the beginning, the last time is the closest it’s ever gotten. We feel that people are starting to understand that we need to take care of our community. That’s just what we have to do.”

“It’s a five-year levy,” Fiscal officer Deborah Dawson said. “Give us five years and let’s see if we live up to it.”

If approved, the levy will generate an annual revenue for the township of $294,400, and also result in an increase of taxes for homeowners depending on the value of their homes.

On the low end, residents with a $40,000 home would see an increase in taxes of $28 per year, while on the high end, residents with a $150,000 home will see an increase of $105 yearly. Taxes would increase by $35 for a $50,000 home; $42 for a $60,000 home; $49 for a $70,000 home; $56 for an $80,000 home; $63 for a $90,000 home, and $70 for a $100,000 home value.