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Feb
25
2024
Government

Township, Schools, Council | Joint group talks finances

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On Wednesday, Dec. 7 — the most recent meeting between members of the Yellow Springs Board of Education, Village Council and Miami Township Trustees — the three entities discussed their respective financial futures — futures that include increased utility prices, renewal levies and requests for new money.

Speaking on behalf of Miami Township, Trustee Marilan Moir said the trustees were “very humbled” by the passage of the Township’s fire and rescue levy in the Nov. 8 election. In that election, voters passed a 3.5-mill levy that would bring in $670,000 each year. According to Moir, the money collected through the levy will allow the Township to pay its employees and save some money for capital expenses, such as a fire engine, respiratory gear for firefighters and an ambulance.

“The [money] allows us to plan for the next 10 years,” Moir said.

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In response to a question from Council member Kevin Stokes, Fire Chief Colin Altman explained that the life span for most of the equipment used by fire and ambulance services is determined using national guidelines. Medical equipment, he said, has a lifespan determined by the manufacturer.

“When the manufacturer stops making updates, we have to buy new equipment,” Altman said.

Moir also said that the Township was looking closely at their personnel budget and identifying places where costs could be cut. She said the Township has already done work to reduce overtime hours in anticipation of Fire Chief Colin Altman’s retirement, which is slated for July 2023.

Trustee Chris Mucher said they were also planning to renew a five-year levy that is set to expire in 2024. From those funds, Mucher said the Township would be able to set aside between $7,000 and $8,000 for “future planning” and to avoid a budget shortfall.

School board

The update from the Yellow Springs Board of Education included a short facilities update from member Judith Hempfling, who said the board’s Facilities Committee had recently received numbers from the architect who provided costs for foundational renovations and proposals from building administrators and staff.

District Treasurer Jay McGrath gave a brief financial forecast, which he said reflected a positive general fund balance as long as the school passes its continuing levies in the near future. He said the district will likely need to ask taxpayers for operating funds in 2027 or 2028.

In response to a question from Council member Gavin DeVore Leonard, McGrath said the timeline for choosing a facilities plan will depend on the type of levy the school board is looking to put on the ballot.

“Action for a levy will need to be taken as early as June,” McGrath said. “So decisions will need to be made before then.”

School Board President T.J. Turner said district administrators and board members would receive training on House Bill 140, a law that restricts how public entities advocate for levies. According to Turner and Superintendent Terri Holden, districts must be “careful” about their messaging, and be sure to only provide facts to the voting public.

“None of the three political entities would put anything on the ballot if we didn’t need it on the ballot,” Holden said. “But we’re not allowed to talk about why we think [the public] should vote for it.”

Village Council

Village Manager Josué Salmerón spoke on the Village’s projected budget shortfall for 2023, telling the group that Council will need to find ways to generate more revenue for the enterprise funds and the general fund before the end of 2023.

To increase enterprise fund revenues, Salmerón said the Village would need to do phased rate adjustments — an increase of 2%–6% per year until 2027 — and then a yearly inflation increase afterward.

To increase money for the general fund, Salmerón said the Village is eyeing the reciprocal tax credit for Yellow Springs residents working outside of the village. The reciprocal tax credit is set by Council, and no vote from villagers is necessary for Council to increase or decrease the credit.

Currently, residents working outside the Village receive a credit for all taxes paid to other entities up to the Village 1.5% tax.

Salmerón said that reducing the credit from 100% to 75% would generate $120,000; a reduction to 50% would generate $240,000; a reduction to 25% would generate $361,000; and eliminating the tax credit altogether would generate $481,000.

Council President Brian Housh said Council had been hesitant to alter the rate, but the financial state of the Village has made it necessary.

“We are not looking to increase our income tax percentage,” Housh said, acknowledging that raising the income tax would require a villagewide affirmative vote.

While the 1.5% tax rate would not change, taxpayers working outside of the village would see more money coming out of their paycheck if the reciprocal tax credit is reduced.

After the updates from each of the three entities, the group discussed ways to include more public participation. Hempfling said that the round table discussion was great for dialogue between the three entities, but the venue, Council chambers, did not leave much room for a participating public.

DeVore Leonard suggested that all members of the bodies did not need to meet regularly, but a committee could be formed with representatives from each group. Housh agreed, saying the committee makeup should include the village manager, village finance director, school treasurer and superintendent, and the township treasurer.

Members of the school board and the township trustees present said they were open to additional meetings, should the need arise. No date had been set for a future meeting as of press time.

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