Center trustees consider levy

LISBON — Center Township trustees are considering asking voters to approve a levy to help fund the part-time police department begun in 2014.

Trustees are going to explore this option after being told at last week’s meeting by Fiscal Office Becky Tolson the remaining oil and gas lease money being used to subsidize police department operations is now gone, and there is not enough money in the township general fund to continue helping fund the police department without impacting other operations.

“We’re back to where we were a couple of years ago, where there isn’t enough to cover the police department,” she told them

The department consists of Fred Carlisle, a full-time Lisbon officer who serves as chief, and several other part-time officers used to provide 10 hours of coverage or so per week on average. Tolson said they spent $22,013 on the department in 2016 and its 2018 budget is $36,826.

“The first few years we took what the police department cost out of the lease money,” Tolson said, but for most of 2016 the township used general fund revenue because township expenses were down significantly. She attributed this to the fact there was no township hall expenses for nine months following the February 2016 fire that destroyed the old township building.

When the new township hall opened, they again began paying electric and heating bills, so Tolson resumed using lease money to subsidize the police department, but now that money is gone.

According to Tolson, the township’s general fund budget for this year is $155,000, of which $65,000 came from the 2017 carry-over balance. The general fund currently stands at $115,000, but they still have anticipated expenses and commitments totaling $72,000, reducing this year’s expected year-end balance to $43,000. If that remains the case, she said the township general fund cannot absorb the police department without having to make cuts elsewhere.

One option would be to begin using road levy money, which is a separate fund, to pay a portion of trustee’ and fiscal officer salaries and benefits based on the percentage of time they spend addressing road issues. Tolson said this would obviously reduce the amount of money for road maintenance.

“I just want to be realistic about where we’re going before we get there,” she told them.

Tolson presented the trustees with a spread sheet on current finances, and trustee chairman Tim Novak said he wanted time to review those figures before making any decision.

In the meantime, trustee Greg Shive suggested they contact the Columbiana County Auditor’s Office to get some figures on how much a police levy would generate. Tolson suggested they do it now if they are considering placing a levy on the 2019 May primary ballot.

The trustees then voted to ask the auditor’s office to determine how large a levy would be needed to generate $20,000 a year, $30,000 or $40,000.