CENTERBURG — The village of Centerburg’s efforts to form its own township are on hold while a number of questions concerning how the process would affect the village and Hilliar Township are answered.
An ordinance has been before Village council to petition the Knox County Board of Commissioners to create a new township out of a portion of Hilliar Township, boundaries of which would exactly match those of the village.
The ordinance has had two of the three required readings. The third reading was tabled during the Feb. 7 council meeting, according to Kyle Stroh, solicitor.
The proposal came in large part because of the mandate by the EPA for Centerburg to build a new water/wastewater plant. According to Stroh, the requirement for the new facility would impose a severe burden on city residents.
“If the inside millage were no longer collected from village residents it would be a total savings of about $48,000,” said Centerburg village clerk/treasurer Teri James. “That would be money that the taxpayers themselves would no longer pay which would go back into taxpayers’ pockets to help offset the increase of the water and sewer rates that we know are coming,” she said.
For now, most of the issues are in the hands of Chip McConville, assistant Knox County Prosecutor, who is representing the township and Stroh.
“The way we left it is I am preparing an outline of what it means and how we can perhaps address, and use some other tools to address, other concerns like the park,” Stroh told the News.
There are some problems, however, and several questions need to be worked out between the township and the village.
The ordinance authorizes Stroh to petition the commissioners to form the new township. As outlined in the Ohio Revised Code, the legislative body of the municipality, by ordinance, may petition the board of county commissioners for the creation of a new township partitioned from one or more existing townships of which the municipality may be a part.
In Centerburg’s case this is just one township — Hilliar.
After authenticating the approval of the municipality’s legislative body — Village Council — the board of county commissioners must approve the creation of the new township.
The board of county commissioners, upon entering an order erecting a new township shall include in such order a proper division of the funds on hand, credits, and properties of the original township, between the new township and the municipal corporation eliminated from the township, on the basis of the respective tax duplicates subject to levy for the creation of such funds or credits, or subject to taxation for the creation of the fund from which the property was acquired.
Stroh thinks the section of the ORC code concerning the division of assets (503.07) does not apply in this case.
The township’s concerns rest primarily on lost income for the township.
“On the initial outlook on it, it looks like we (Hilliar Township) would take about a $65,000 cut in our budget,” said Don McCracken, chairman of the Hilliar Township Board of Trustees. “Seventeen thousand dollars of that is inside millage. That’s what people pay inside the city limits right now. And $39,000 from the road fund and there’s our cemetery fund. Those two funds are millages that the people who live in town now pay on because they are part of the township.
“Another concern, if this indeed happens, we have a 2-mill road levy and if the people in town are no longer part of the township and no longer paying on that road levy, when it comes up for renewal we’re going to have to ask for a lot more money, a higher millage. And that will be harder to pass.”
The township does no road work inside the village so there would be no cost savings there if the new township is created.
There are two other concerns the township has. That is the status of the park and cemetery. Both are owned and maintained by the township although each is surrounded by the village. There would be less money to operate and maintain those two properties should the new township be formed.
“The park is owned by the township and we’re the only ones paying any money to maintain it,” McCracken said. “That’s about a $20,000 to $25,000 hit on our budget. The concern is if our budget goes down and we have to make cuts, where are we going to make those cuts?”
Centerburg has two levies, the funds from which go to Hilliar Township to pay for the cemetery upkeep, and road and bridge maintenance on township roads. The cemetery levy was a renewal of 0.5 mill which began in 2009 for five years and will expire in 2013. The road and bridge levy was a replacement levy of 2 mills which began in 2008; it is set to expire in 2012.
Stroh said if the new township is approved, it will be governed by the municipal government and its governmental offices.