PT works to balance budget without cuts
Prairie Township Trustee will have to start making plans now for 2012 in order to continue the township’s income without making budget cuts.
The township has a $13 million budget, which includes the little over $5 million the township has in investments, which is known as the reserved fund.
Over the last few years the state has made reductions in the money they provide to the township. The majority of the township’s local spending comes from those monies.
In 2008 the township received $920,000 from the state for the general fund. Two years later, in 2010, that’s dropped over $200,000. “We’re at $716,000 today and I think we got our last check, so there’s a $200,000 hit we took right there.” Prairie Township Trustee Chairman Steve Kennedy said, “In 2007 the interest off our investments was $357,000 a year. Everyone knows that the interest rates have dropped. As of today we got a little over $107,000 a year from that $5million, so in the last two years we lost just in those two categories almost $400,000 a year.”
He said last year the trustees agreed in the budget to pull money from the reserve fund to make road improvements, which he thought they were probably going to have to do for two years.
“We can’t continue to go on. Something is going to have to happen. There are several choices out there, which will be unliked options,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy talked about three possible solutions to maintain the funding needed to avoid budget cuts.
The township is allowed to pull inside millage, according to Kennedy. He said this was tried a few years ago without any public comment, but that is one valid option. It would generate about $475,000. This would cause the township to “basically break even” with the operating expenses that it has today, said Kennedy. This option would mean a 1.6 mill increase for every Prairie township resident.
“This is not a good option at this time in my mind,” Kennedy said.
The second option Kennedy mentioned is to create levies to help pay for the police service or for the township’s operating fund. Once again Kennedy did not think this was the best option because it would also tax every Prairie township resident.
The third option is a Joint Economic Development District (JEDD). As of now the trustees plan on trying to put a JEDD on the ballot to be voted on by township residents in the November election.
“It is not a tax increase at all. I don’t want to refer to it as a tax increase. It’s a way to redirect tax money that is currently being collected today, but today it is being directed to other municipalities.” Kennedy said.
In September there was talk of the JEDD being optional for local businesses. As of now, if it is approved by residents, every business from I-270 to Hilliard-Rome Road will have to participate. The township has some plans that will be an improvement for all of the businesses in those areas.
“By doing that we set ourselves up for some expenses too. We’re going to have to maintain that area, we’re going to have to maintain the lights in that area, we’re going to have to do the upkeep in that area. We all feel that it makes more sense to ask the businesses in that area to help support the improvement of their area than it does to increase the tax on every township resident.” Kennedy said.
If the funds from the JEDD come in, the township has some goals, which include increasing police protection in the area and building a community center.
“I think it’s vital for the area. If not, there’s going to be cuts.” Kennedy said. He talked about some of the possible programs that would be cut, which included the senior center and the zoning department.
“I don’t like it. That’s one of the good things about this place, good road service and good fire service. I’m very glad that we have a zoning department.” Prairie township resident, Eleanor Jones said.
Kennedy said out of the options that are out there, the JEDD makes the most sense, “It’s not us just sitting up here saying this is a good idea and it needs to be done, so that’s why we think we are going to put it on the ballot and let all of the residents vote on it and majority will win.”
Jim Morrison, another Prairie township resident, agreed with Kennedy on the JEDD, “I think that’s only fair. We should have done this four years ago.”
Kennedy reiterated the Board has 11 months to discuss their options, which will also give people time to express how they feel about having a JEDD on the ballot.
“I think we are doing the right thing by putting it out there and doing what the majority of township residents want. If not we owe it to the residents to give them the opportunity first before we have to cut services,” Kennedy said.