The Press Newspaper
Falling local revenues and doubts that reimbursements from the state will be sufficient to meet the costs of required programs and services prompted the Ottawa County commissioners to approve an emergency resolution that raises the sales/use tax by 0.25 percent.
With the increase, the total tax rate will be 6.75 percent, with the county share at 1.25 percent and the state portion at 5.5 percent.
The 0.25 percent increase will be in effect for three years and then automatically end, said commissioner Steve Arndt.
“State funding for many services has been dropping,” he said. “Unfortunately we are the delivery point for those services and it really puts a bind on us. We’re at the point it’s going to reach core services.”
Commissioners have cut the county’s operating budget by about $2.6 million over the past two years, he said, and the state is about six months in arrears in reimbursements to the county for service programs.
County officials said they expect the increase to go into effect in July. State law mandates a delay in the start of collections to allow for possible referendum challenges to an increase.
In 2005, Pemberville made plans to pay $132,000 to purchase the old Ford
Garage at 118 East Front Street for the purpose of revitalizing it into a “mini-mall.”
Bob Renz purchased the building from the village at auction for $38,000 last year, and three businesses are now located inside.
Bob Renz, his brother Bill, and a nephew have done “a lot of renovation and more is planned for the future,” stated a letter written by Bob and Bill's mother, Joan Renz. Bob estimates he has spent $15,000 so far, which includes removing part of an old wall and rebuilding a new wall, removing two windows and replacing 16 windows and siding, remodeling the bathrooms, and adding a bathroom, new door, and an office in the back.
The state auditor’s office has issued a finding for recovery against former Jerusalem Township Trustee Rodney Graffis for receiving health insurance reimbursements of $7,566.03 in 2008 for which he was not eligible.
The finding is part of a 2008 audit of the township’s finances that trustees requested last year.
It is the second time the auditor has issued a finding of recovery against Graffis. In 2007, an audit showed the township paid Graffis $20,174.04 in health insurance reimbursements he was ineligible to receive.
The Ohio Revised Code permits townships to reimburse their officers and employees for health insurance premiums when they incur out-of-pocket expenses for coverage. Though Graffis asked for, and received health insurance reimbursements from the township in 2007 and 2008, he was already getting such coverage from his union.
“A finding of recovery for public monies illegally expended is issued against Rodney Graffis and the Ohio Association Risk Management Authority, his bonding company, in the amount of $7,566.03 and in favor of the Jerusalem Township General Fund,” states the audit.
A financial audit of Jerusalem Township for 2008, issued by the state auditor’s office last month, showed the township’s budget was shrinking due to a poor economy.
“The challenge for all townships is to provide quality services to the public while staying within the restrictions imposed by limited, and in some cases shrinking, funding,” states the audit. The township relies heavily on local taxes and has very little industry to support the tax base.
In 2008, the total cost of services, which included public safety, public works, health, conservation-recreation, and capital outlay, was $965,973, compared to $841,757 in 2007.
The township’s general receipts, which are primarily property taxes, represent 47 percent of the total cash received for governmental activities during the year. Property tax receipts for 2008 changed very little compared to 2007 because development within the township has slowed as the result of the majority of the township being located in a flood plain.
Federal regulations, new housing starts as well as home improvements and additions in the flood plain area have been drastically curtailed due to economic conditions, states the audit.
“The dependence upon property tax receipts is apparent as $436,441 of governmental activities is supported through these general receipts,” states the audit.
The Metroparks is required to keep track of migratory birds and water fowl at
John Jaeger, retired director for natural resources at the Metroparks of the Toledo Area, walks through a three-hour bird survey every 10 days. Jaeger is contracted to perform the survey for the Columbus-based Ohio Wetlands Foundation.
Pearson North has 10 different bird stations, and Jaeger spends 10 minutes at each station. After 29 days touring the park, he said he’s seen "some amazing birds that have stopped off here since the opening."
He found the 300-acre Pearson expansion promises opportunities for nature watching, including the appearance of a wide variety of birds more typical of Lake Erie marshes.
For example, the field naturalist told members of The Friends of Pearson Park during February’s monthly meeting at Macomber Lodge that “the springtime woodland will offer important foraging areas for neo-tropical migrating birds such as warblers and thrushes.”
He heard a whip-poor-will one evening walking around the park — a sound not heard in Northwest Ohio today like it was decades ago. Another day, he picked up a pie-billed greed.