Should Deerfield Township Taxpayers Hand Over More Money to Trustees?

Keep Deerfield Safe signSummer evokes images of family vacations, trips to the pool, picnics, back to school shopping, and… elections?

This Tuesday, August 6, Ohioans will cast their votes in special elections.  For those with issues on the ballot, absentee voting has been underway since early July.

After approximately eighteen months of consideration, Deerfield Township trustees voted in early March to put a police levy to a vote in the August special election.  Trustees publicly stated the need for a levy, i.e. increased taxation, has been considered since late 2011. 

Months later, in January 2012, township trustees entered into a three-year contract with the Warren County Sheriff’s office for police services.  The contract expires at the end of 2014.

With the current 2.5 mill levy, property owners pay $71.89 per $100,000 in valuation.  If the 4-mill replacement levy is approved by voters, the owner of a $100,000 home will pay $122.49 per 100,000, an additional $50.60 per $100,000.

Elected officials say the proposed tax increase is necessary to maintain current levels of police staffing.

The group promoting and supporting the pro-levy campaign is “Keep Deerfield Safe”.  Warren County Sherriff Larry Sims is campaign treasurer.

An anti-levy campaign could be “Keep Deerfield Taxpayers Safe.”

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer cover story on April 3, 2013:

  • Deerfield Township spends $1,683.53 per capita (appropriations of $60,706,249, population of 36,059)
  • West Chester Township spent $918.67* per capita (last year) (appropriations of $135,977,821, population of 60,958)
  • Anderson Township spends $789.36 per capita (appropriations of $34,294,549, population of 43,446)
  • Liberty Township spends $532.18 per capita (appropriations $19,828,557, population of 37,259)

Township officials assert Deerfield is doing well measured against similar communities of comparable size, such as Mason.  This “standard” may not represent an accurate picture depending on the spending trends of the community used for comparison.

  • Mason spends $2411.02 per capita (appropriations of $74,047,299, population of 30,712)

This key ballot issue concerning increased taxation, public safety, and trustees’ allocation of taxpayer dollars is put to a vote when August voter turnout is historically low and the fewest number of voters will likely decide the issue. 

North COAST expressed concerns about the timing of the August levy in April.

Already burdened taxpayers will pay approximately $30,000 in extra costs associated with the August special election.  This one election has a projected price tag of nearly three times the $10,200 budgeted by the township for total election costs in 2013.

A parks levy and two trustees will be on the November ballot.

During March and April conversations pertaining to the timing of the August policy levy, trustee president, Chris Romano, frequently explained there would not be enough time to implement Plan B if the police levy failed in August, saying the budgeting process is “complicated”. 

With regard to extra taxpayer costs incurred for the special election, Romano commented prior to the May 8 ballot issue filing deadline,

“That is the cost of operating the government….we have no new information…the budget cycle is the same, the amount of available money is the same.”

“If the levy fails on the November vote, it gives us 60 days to implement Plan B…and negotiate a whole new budget.”

However Today’s Pulse July 17 post says, “Deerfield Township officials say they have added a cushion in the 2014 general fund tax budget in case upcoming police and park levies fail.” 

Deerfield Township Administrator Bill Becker was quoted:

“The township hasn’t begun trimming yet”

Bill Becker, former Middletown police chief, seemingly contradicts Romano’s prior statements.  Becker is quoted in Today’s Pulse, saying “by anticipating a potential failure at the polls the township can keep services status quo for next year but not indefinitely.”

Specific details of the Deerfield sheriff’s contract have not been publicized or made readily available to date.  If the purpose of the levy is to maintain current staffing levels, how will the increased tax dollars be allocated?   

In early June, Sherriff Sims’ campaign treasurer wrote a letter to the editor supporting the policy levy.

The pro-levy campaign website compares cost per resident and number of officers to other communities.

The August police levy may demonstrate the need for the township to tighten its belt.  A few examples of township expenditures:

  •  Landen Station was briefly used for township administration offices and sold in 2011.

Landen Station

  • Rent for current administration offices and trustee room on Parkway Drive is budgeted at $146,418 per year.   Recovery charges (CAM, taxes and utilities) are an additional $64,911, totaling $211,328 per year.
  • Construction costs of $4 million estimated to build a new fire station at 3435 SR 22/3, replacing the Townsley Drive Station.

Deerfield Fire Station 57

Deerfield Township levy sign placed against the backdrop of the demolished historic Twenty Mile House, now the site of a gas station under construction.

Keep Deerfield Safe sign

Former site of 20 Mile House

With government employees and officeholders promoting the levy, who is looking out for the taxpayers?

Trustee Dan Corey is also employed by the county engineer’s office.

Deerfield will have two trustees, presumably Corey and Romano, and a park levy on the November 2013 ballot.  According to Corey, “Anyone can run and replace us at any time”.

The candidate filing deadline is August 7.

No kidding.  Any takers?

Perhaps the Deerfield police levy raises questions about trustees’ use of taxpayer dollars rather than the need for additional funds.