Sylvania Township - Fiscal Restraint In Action

Issue: #19 October 2009 Greetings!

With the election less than a week away, I wanted to touch on one final topic regarding the improvements and changes that we have made at Sylvania Township - fiscal accountability.

Hanley & Liedel Pledge: No New Taxes!
As a community and country, we are experiencing an economic downturn that we have not seen in more than a generation. Families and businesses are having to make do with less - business revenue and personal income are down, and we have less discretionary money to spend. Meanwhile, the price of everyday items such as gas, groceries, utilities and the like are at least holding steady if not increasing.

The Sylvania community is nearing one of the highest taxed communities in Lucas County. While taxes are necessary to support quality services such as: the school system, senior center, safety services, infrastructure, recreation and park systems - it is equally imperative that Government Leaders provide quality service at a reasonable cost and successfully plan and save for future services, so as not to create an undue tax burden for its citizens.

Over the last few years we have improved service efficiencies, implemented cost saving and spending control measures throughout the township. As a result our reserves have increased over $6 million in the last three years and the Township was awarded the highest financial bond rating in Lucas County placing us in the top 10% in the State! Our annual budget process now includes a rolling five-year projection, enabling us to see year-to-year the status of necessary funding to maintain township services. With this level of 'savings' we can commit to maintaining excellent services in Sylvania Township while not increasing your taxes.

We are committed to helping you make it through this economic downturn - we will not raise taxes in the next four years. Your family has to live within its means, our families have to live within our means, it's about time government does the same.

While others may say they are against tax increases and may even promise not to raise taxes, look at what has been said and how people have voted. It is easy to make a promise based on someone else's hard work. But it is Pam and I who have actually followed through on fiscal restraint and lowering taxes, putting the township in the position of being able to not raise taxes for at least four years (and maybe longer).

(Disclaimer: I will note that the pledge of no new taxes does not apply to special assessments when petitioned for by a segment of residents for things such as street lighting, etc.)

Fiscal Restraint in Action
Prior to my election, one of my concerns with Sylvania Township was the drastic increase in spending, including spending increases four times the rate of inflation. I campaigned on fiscal restraint and accountability and now I want to show the results of what can be done fiscally, while maintaining quality services in Sylvania Township.

(Note: the following numbers exclude any capital transactions especially those related to the fire department's voter-approved capital plan).

Fire Fund: 11.5% Increase
Fire Fund: Since 2006, spending in the fire department has increased 11.50% compared to a Consumer Price Index increase of 10.24% (from December 2005 to December 2008; I'm using December because that is realistically when we finalize our budget and what we expect to spend for the following year). The 11.50% increase includes the addition of 5 new firefighters as per the March 2008 Levy Proposal approved by voters. That means we will increase manpower without going significantly outside of inflation.

This was possible through diligent review of expenditures, careful planning and fiscal restraint. With cost efficiencies and fiscal discipline, we were able to 1) stop the borrowing the fire department had become dependent upon; 2) hire 5 new firefighters; 3) begin to repay the general fund the monies the Fire Department had borrowed and perhaps most importantly, 4) maintained the quality service our community expects and deserves.

Police Fund: 11.85 Increase
Police Fund: Spending increased 11.85% in the police department compared to an inflation rate of 10.24%. The one-and-one-half percentage difference is relatively negligible, and amounts to less than $100,000 of a $6.7 million annual budget. Service has remained constant, training has increased drastically, and the 2005 Police Levy which was originally projected to last only until 2009, is now projected to last until 2013. The extension of the 2005 levy is in addition to the trustees' taking a tax holiday on an older police levy, saving township property owners $2.7 million.

Road & Bridge Fund: 33% Increase
Road & Bridge Fund: Spending on roads and our infrastructure has increased dramatically in the last four years and this is a good thing for our community. The Road and Bridge funds have seen a 33.20% increase in spending since 2006. Initially I'm sure this seems contrary to my position of fiscal discipline. But as I mentioned in prior discussions, we have returned the focus of the Road Department to our infrastructure in order to maintain quality roads and drainage systems. For example, in 2003 and 2004 the Township only repaved 1 mile of road. We need to resurface 6-7 miles a year in order to stay on a 20 year maintenance schedule (the typical life-span of residential roads). We have resurfaced over 30 miles of road since 2006.

So although our spending in the Road department has increased 33%, our service delivery to township residents and businesses has considerably expanded and improved. No longer is the road department simply picking up leaves and plowing roads; they are focusing on the very infrastructure that upholds our quality community. Fiscal restraint isn't just about spending less money; it is prioritizing the money we do spend so that we are spending it wisely and with focused priorities.

General Fund: 23% Increase
General Fund: The General Fund provides funding for any township services not covered by fire, police and roads such as our accounting department and zoning. Spending in the General Fund has increased almost 23%. (For my calculations, I did not consider loans to the Fire Department 'spending' from the general fund, as that would be double-counting money that was spent by the Fire Department). The Trustees approved this spending increase for several reasons.

First, we have stepped up enforcement in the Zoning Department, including adding one full-time employee and a Certified Planner to help address some of the zoning and planning issues the Township faces. We have also hired a full-time Budget Director. Sylvania Township is an entity with a $24 million budget and a $10 million capital plan and employs over 150 people. We need someone who can oversee our budget and investments on a daily basis, as well as help each department with long-term planning. We are no longer reactionary in our fiscal policy, we are proactive and that benefits every department in the Township.

Finally, the general fund has taken on the expense of leaf and brush pickups. In the past, these were expenses of the Road Department but state law clearly directs that these services can only be provided in townships if the money comes out of the general fund, not money dedicated to maintaining and improving roads. So while this is an increase in spending for the General Fund, it was money that was already being spent but was accounted for in another fund.

Also, a $500,000 loan from the Road Department to the General Fund was repaid, which increased spending in the General Fund. This loan was made several years ago (before I became a trustee) in order to keep the Fire Department afloat. While this money was not intended to be paid back when it was borrowed, we felt it was appropriate since the Road Department is funded off of revenue from the unincorporated township while the Fire Department provides services to the unincorporated areas and the City of Sylvania.

Increased Reserves Provide Future Service Stability
Although spending has increased in the General Fund, we have been able to substantially build the township's cash reserves, from $675,000 to over $7.0 million. Some of this money is the result of estate tax receipts received by the township of $4.4 million during my term as trustee. But it is interesting to note that in the five years prior to my term, the Township had received $4.2 million in estate tax receipts - and the cash reserves were 1/6 of that. It is not so much that we received substantial estate taxes, but that we didn't spend them.

The cash reserves that we have built up are important because they will help insure quality services for the next several years as our community and region works its way through the bad economy, including a decline of property tax revenue of about $500,000 for the township due to a drop in property values. We can continue to provide quality services without going to the taxpayers for more money because we have built up these reserves. If we had not, if we have continued the prior practices of spending most of what the township had - we would be in the unfortunate position of having to ask for more taxes or reducing services. But because we have been diligent and conscious of our spending, we are ready - and I am committed - to making it through the next four years without raising taxes.

Result: Rate of Inflation + Levy
In total, Sylvania Township's budget has increased about 16% (excluding capital items) over the last 4 years during a time when inflation increased just over 10%. This 6% difference equates to a total spending increase in excess of inflation of $1.2 million from 2006 to 2009, or basically the operational portion of the Fire Levy that was passed in March 2008. Maintaining government spending to the rate of inflation plus voter-approved levies is, in my opinion, the proper way to run government and defines fiscal restraint.

We also received an update of our spending through September 2009 at a recent trustee meeting. With 3/4 of the year over, departments have spent 65-70% of their annual budget. A few line items are over budget, but overall spending is below expectations.

Please, forward this email to other voters in Sylvania. There are six days left before the November 3rd election, and it is important to get the truth out to residents of Sylvania, so that we can remain a Quality Community You Can Afford to Live In.

Sincerely,

DeeDee Liedel
Sylvania Township Trustee

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My family was looking for a home in Sylvania. We knew taxes were higher...but didn't realize how out of control they were until we researched other areas. One guy from KeyBank in Cleveland...who we were dealing with on a pre-approval even made a comment about how high Sylvania's taxes were. He thought we were joking when we told him the $165,000 house we were looking at had annual taxes of $5,500.

In comparison, other areas we looked at. Maumee was $2,000 annually on a $165,000 home. Temperance was $1,300 on a $165,000 home. Finally...we are also looking at moving to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Taxes were so low...that we would be able to get a $239,000 home with annual taxes of $595 dollars....thats right hundred....not thousand. So, our monthly payment on a $239,000 home in Delaware will be the same as a monthly payment on a $165,000 home in Sylvania....just because of the tax difference. And the homes are just as nice and in a nice neighborhoods. Also, Delaware has no city or state income tax....no sales tax. And, when we were there...every single building had an operating business occupying it.

Perhaps this area should pay attention to what works. Keep money in the residents pockets...and they will put it back into the economy. That's what works.

Finally, don't even get me started on the outrageous...national high utility rates in this region. The crooks at Columbia Gas could have a whole book written about their price gouging.

Time to go...I believe there's a spot waiting for me at my new home on the beach.

you're not exactly getting a home in Rehobeth on the beach for $239,000...

I know Rehobeth, I went there alot growing up in eastern Pa. I do agree it would be an attractive place to live. But for $239 thou, you're driving to an area in the vicinity of the beach, finding place to park (good luck in the summer, lol) and then doing some walking.

...to Delaware, you might want to check out: https://dorweb.revenue.delaware.gov/filepit/

It seems that they do have an income tax.

But as far as local property taxes, I've said before that our taxes are too high; that's nothing new. But the examples that you give simply do not coincide with the average numbers from the Auditor's Office. I suspect you are looking at houses that have been on fire-sale via foreclosure or something and certainly those prices are less than the 2006 valuations that are currently listed on AREIS and upon which 2009 taxes due are calculated.

Sylvania taxes are not twice what Maumee's are; they are about 10 effective mills more (and that mostly is the Sylvania Township Fire Department because Maumee has a volunteer fire department though they do run a full-time EMS squad(s); Sylvania runs full-time fire and EMS).

Kooz - I agree that our taxes are high, but you aren't exactly helping your credibility by lying about the tax rate on a $165K house in Sylvania Twp.

You keep insisting on the same number, no matter how many times someone proves you wrong.

Why don't you give the address on the house you're talking about and prove the number you're citing? Oh that's right...because you're WRONG.

I cannot figure out for the life of me why you'd insist on spreading this misinformation over and over again. Our tax rate is high - you could have easily just told the truth to demonstrate that. Your insistence on giving the same fake statistic over and over is just plain bizarre.

The lion's share of the taxes are for millage voted for the schools. People complain about the high taxes, but they voted the millage to support the schools.
Look at your property tax bill. There's a pie chart that shows the percentages and the school takes 60-70%.
Even TARTA get more than the fire department. If you want a good quality of life and good schools, someone has to pay for it. It doesn't come free. I don't like taxes either, but in Sylvania, you get what you pay for. It's up to the property owner's and they've voted to pay for good schools.

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