Village Council, school board, Township hold joint meeting
- Published: October 30, 2022
On Thursday, Sept. 29, members of the Yellow Springs Board of Education, Village Council, and Miami Township Board of Trustees held a joint meeting. The objective of the meeting was for the three entities and the public to come together in order to better understand tax structures, learn about each entity’s financial needs and talk about ideas for future collaboration.
The public meeting was planned partly in response to the Miami Township trustees’ vote this summer to place a 3.5-mill operations levy for Miami Township Fire-Rescue on the November ballot. After learning of the vote, the school board wrote a letter to the trustees expressing disappointment that plans for the levy were not shared with the school district and Village government, citing a reported agreement between the governmental bodies to do so.
In attendance were elected school board members, township trustees and Village Council members; Terri Holden, the school superintendent; Jay McGrath, school treasurer; Village Manager Josué Salmerón and Village Clerk Judy Kintner.
Before each entity gave a presentation sharing their responsibilities and present and future needs, Village Council Vice-President Kevin Stokes spoke briefly on the importance of convening the groups.
“We all understand the need for the taxing agencies to have a healthy relationship, a collaborative relationship,” he said. “What one entity does severely — positively or negatively — affects the others. … We don’t anticipate this being the only time we come together.”
YS Schools Treasurer McGrath began his presentation by briefly outlining how levy revenues for Ohio school districts are affected by rising property values.
“There’s a challenge to school funding that happens everywhere in the state of Ohio,” McGrath said, referring to the 1976 passage of House Bill 920.
According to the bill, voted levies are capped at collecting revenue based on the tax valuation of properties at the time of their passage. As property values rise, the effective millage rates for voted levies drop in order to keep revenues at the dollar values set at the time of their passage.
“Most of the time, schools do not get the inflation growth from property values, so the way that schools get more money is by going back to the taxpayers,” he said.
McGrath went on to discuss the levies that will expire for the district over the next several years.
A permanent improvement levy was passed in 2018. It collects $150,367 annually for the district and funds long-term costs outside of the district’s general operations budget. The levy is set to expire in 2023, and must be renewed by November 2023 in order to maintain the revenue it generates. The levy’s original voted millage of 1.2 is now an effective millage of 0.86 based on rising property values.
Two emergency levies of $1,060,000 and $915,000 were renewed in 2015 and 2017 and will expire in 2025. The levies can be renewed as early as March 2024, with a deadline of November 2025 to renew.
A $4.5 million bond issue passed in 2000 to pay for renovations and additions at both campuses will be paid down at the end of 2026, and will not be renewed.
Property tax revenues — which include the expiring levies as well as ongoing voted and unvoted millage — account for the largest portion of the revenue the schools receive annually at 37%, generating about $6 million for the district annually. Income tax generates 13% of the schools’ funding, and only generates revenue from taxpayers who live in the school district. The district’s total estimated revenue for the 2022–23 school year is $12,156,132.
The majority of the district’s expenses — 52% — are salaries, which amount to $6,233,016 annually. About 2% of expenses via permanent improvement and capital outlay are spent on facilities. The district’s total expected expenditures for 2022–23 are $13,410,548.
McGrath went on to compare the tax base of Yellow Springs with that of nearby Beavercreek. One mill — which represents one-tenth of a cent, and nets a municipality $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value — is not “equal” in both districts, he said. The value of one mill for the schools in Beavercreek, whose tax base is about 10 times that of Yellow Springs, is $2,142,243 across all of its taxed properties.
“One mill for us is $170,207, which doesn’t buy too much these days,” he said.
Because most of Yellow Springs’ tax revenue is based on residential and agricultural properties, he said, a larger tax burden falls on residents than it does in communities like Beavercreek that have a larger commercial and industrial tax base.
“This is a snapshot that illustrates a discussion that’s been going on in the village for a while about the lack of development,” Holden added. “We just wanted to highlight … the fact that our percentage is so low and there is an impact.”
Miami Township Trustees
Miami Township Trustee Chris Mucher began the Township’s presentation by giving an overview of the Township’s work. The Township’s government, which includes Trustees Marilan Moir, Don Hollister and Mucher and Fiscal Officer Margaret Silliman, oversees the care of just under 15 miles of roads and five cemeteries, with repairs and maintenance also overseen by Dan Gochenour; rural zoning of unincorporated areas, which is overseen by part-time Zoning Inspector Richard Zopf, a Township Zoning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals; and Miami Township Fire-Rescue, or MTFR.
Roads are maintained via property tax revenues of around $60,000 per year and funding from gasoline taxes and license plate sales of about $80,000 and $15,000 per year, respectively.
Cemetery maintenance, Mucher said, is “self-sufficient,” and is funded by the sale of cemetery plots and fees associated with opening and closing gravesites.
“Far and away [the Township’s] largest service,” he said, is providing fire and emergency services to the village and township.
MTFR Chief Colin Altman followed with a presentation on the upcoming November levy, Issue 25. If passed by voters, the 3.5-mill levy will generate about $670,000 per year for MTFR; it will cost taxpayers $122.50 for every $100,000 of appraised property value, or $35,000 of assessed value.
The revenue from the new levy would be in addition to an estimated annual $580,000 generated by a 3.8-mill operations levy originally passed in 1999 and renewed in 2020. According to Altman, the 1999 levy was implemented when MTFR had 60 volunteers on its roster and needed less revenue to pay staff; MTFR currently has five volunteers.
Volunteer numbers, Altman said, have been dropping for a variety of reasons, including increased training requirements for volunteers over the years. He also cited lost relationships between MTFR and now-defunct local industries like Vernay Labs and Antioch Publishing, which historically provided a large volunteer base and allowed employees to leave work to respond to fires and emergencies.
“What has happened to us is the same thing that has happened to many fire departments: volunteers have dried up and someone’s got to provide the service,” he said.
In addition to reduced volunteer numbers, Altman also cited an increased call volume over the years, which he attributed to the high average age of village and township residents and the large number of visitors to the village; MTFR responds to about 1,200 calls per year.
Altman estimated that payroll for 2022 will cost $896,835. Thus far, he said, the Township’s general fund has been able to supplement the deficit between the annual operations revenue and payroll costs, but said “that money is drying up.”
MTFR does receive other revenue in the form of ambulance billing — about $115,000 each year — but that money can only be used for costs related to emergency medical services. Altman said grants are also available for fire departments, but that they are “limited”; he reported that around $62 million in grants were awarded to fire departments in Ohio this year, compared to around $15 billion for police departments.
“There’s a little bit of a problem there, we think, but cops have guns — so they win, usually,” he said.
School board member Luisa Bieri Rios cited the total estimated revenue — about $1.25 million — that would be brought in annually for MTFR from the current operations levy and the new levy if passed.
“Are you expecting some increase in staff as well?” she asked.
Altman responded that MTFR is “not necessarily” increasing staff, but said the department has “neglected capital expenditures” due to a lack of funds in recent years. An ambulance and fire engine that are “past their lifetimes” need to be replaced, he said, and will cost around $1.15 million.
Mucher added that the $5.75 million price tag for the new fire station, to be paid down over 30 years, was based on the Greene County Auditor’s expectation of a 5.8% interest rate. However, the Township received a loan for the building from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with a fixed interest rate of 3%, which will effectively lower the total cost of the build. The savings, Mucher said, mean that either the bond issue will terminate in 2035 rather than 2046, or the effective millage rate will be lowered for taxpayers, pending the auditor’s decision.
Speaking on behalf of Village Council was Village Manager Josué Salmerón, who told the group about the Village’s responsibilities, which include providing water and electric utilities, maintaining infrastructure and roads, and public safety. Salmerón said that the Village is operating on a 8.4-mill property tax levy that villagers passed in 2006.
“We are operating on 2006 dollars,” Salmerón said, noting the decreased value of the levy after 16 years worth of inflation and increases in property values.
Salmerón highlighted the utilities provided by the Village, which are funded through their own municipal accounts.
“There are infrastructure needs for those utilities,” Salmerón said. “The fees we collect are not enough to deal with the deferred maintenance. We are playing catch up.”
Salmerón also explained the Village’s role in economic development, giving an example of the Village’s relationship with Cresco Labs, which is expanding its facility, bringing an increased number of jobs to the village.
“We doubled down on our partnership with the result of a $48 million investment in our community,” Salmerón said. “We are starting to see the fruits of our labor and that is reflected in our income taxes.”
Salmerón also spoke on the importance of expanding the tax base through new housing construction. According to Salmerón, 29% of the Village’s revenue comes from property taxes; 47% is generated through income tax. As far as expenditures, Salmerón said 50% of the general fund goes to personnel services and about 10% goes to administrative salaries.
In response to a question from the News asking for a tax rate comparison between Yellow Springs and a similar municipality, Council President Brian Housh said the best comparison would be Oakwood, but that Oakwood often buries costs to make the community seem more affordable.
“It’s sometimes hard to compare,” Housh said.
Salmerón added a recent cost of living comparison provided by James A. McKee group was being amended to include a cost comparison between Oakwood and Yellow Springs. The amended study was not available at press time.
After the presentations, members of the three governing bodies discussed possible overlaps in services where they could collaborate. Village Council member Marianne MacQueen commended the group for taking “a step out of our silos” and asked about the possibility of sharing staff, such as human resources personnel, fire and rescue or police.
“I think we need to start looking at having shared facilities,” MacQueen said. “Are there materials we can share? Are there other resources?”
YS News Editor Cheryl Durgans asked the group why the Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, was not the facilitator of the meeting, since each of the entities has representation within the group. Housh said the YSDC could have been a good vehicle for collaboration, but that it had “taken a different direction.”
“We are approaching it in a different way,” Housh said.
School board member Judith Hempfling said that she was not in favor of YSDC facilitating conversations between the three taxing entities because of a lack of oversight from each governing body.
“Otherwise, they’re just kind of coming in with their own individual perspectives,” Hempfling said.
Turning the conversation to future meetings, Hollister suggested meeting in months with a fifth Monday, saying this had been a practice in recent decades.
“That’s roughly four [meetings] a year,” Hollister said.
Members of each entity said they would talk offline about additional meetings.
To watch the full meeting, go to the Yellow Springs Community Access YouTube channel.