Published: Thursday, April 12, 2007
No chance for a levy, Boardman clerk says
The officer cites a lack of internal support among employees and elected officials.
By DENISE DICK
BOARDMAN Despite decreasing revenues, anticipated cuts and deficit spending, the township's fiscal officer recommends not proceeding with a levy in November.
"There isn't a prayer of passing a levy this year," said William Leicht.
He pointed to a lack of community support and a lack of interest from the township's elected officials, department heads and employees.
For the past few years, Leicht has said that a levy would be necessary.
Last December, Leicht recommended the township explore placing a levy on the ballot in the fall. That was at the same meeting where trustees passed a 2007 spending plan with a projected deficit.
With changes in the state's tangible personal property tax and the eventual phase-out of the estate tax, the township's financial position has tightened even more.
This year's projected deficit is $3.4 million.
The difference between revenue and expenses is being made up with reserve funds.
Leicht had previously agreed to chair a levy committee, but in a letter to trustees earlier this month, he resigned that chairmanship.
He said that after accepting the committee position, he asked the three trustees, department heads and each employee union to provide him with a list of 10 names of prospective committee members with the idea of whittling it down to 20 people.
Only Trustee Elaine Mancini provided a list. Darren Crivelli, zoning inspector, said his staff would help, and Karen Ryan, police support services manager, volunteered, he wrote in the letter.
Neither Trustee Kathy Miller nor Robyn Gallitto provided a list and there were no volunteers from any of the unions, Leicht said.
He estimated he's spoken with about 200 residents since January and none support a township levy.
The reasons vary from a lack of trust in and harmony among trustees and economic factors to a belief that employees' wages and benefit packages are too high and a general opposition to taxes, the fiscal officer said.
Based on that community input and a lack of internal support, Leicht recommends not proceeding with a levy effort.
After a meeting last week where township officials discussed the budget, trustees asked department heads to make recommendations to reduce their 2007 appropriations by 25 percent.
With the majority of the township's budget going to personnel, those recommendations are likely to include layoffs.
At that same meeting, Miller proposed $900,000 in additional projects including sidewalk installation along Glenwood Avenue, Leicht said. That would put the township even further into the hole.
Talks of reductions should have happened last summer, he said, adding that his office was removed from the budget process for the first several months of last year.
Miller was disheartened by Leicht's recommendations.
"I'm very disappointed in Elaine Mancini and Bill Leicht that they were the stewards of the money for 12 years or 16 years and now, when things are getting difficult, they don't want to participate in finding the solutions," she said.
Mancini turned down a request from Miller earlier this year to co-chair the levy committee, saying she had too many other commitments to do the effort justice. Her term expires at year's end, and she isn't seeking re-election.
Mancini was out of town Wednesday and couldn't be reached.
Gallitto said she supports the idea of a levy committee but doesn't want to be hasty. She thinks the trustees and employees need to have a full understanding of the financial picture as well as the levy specifics before assigning a committee to do the work.
A meeting is set for 3:30 p.m. April 19 among trustees, department heads and union representatives to get their input.
"The public needs to understand what Boardman provides for what money it's given," Gallitto said.
It's unfortunate that Leicht has resigned the committee chairmanship, she said.
"He had the most institutional knowledge of the numbers of anyone on our board," Gallitto said, adding that she hopes he'll still be involved.