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West Chester Twp. sets budget at $48M this year: What is included

Posted at 8:16 AM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 11:55:51-05

WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — West Chester Twp. is planning to spend about $48 million this year, which is a 5% decrease from last year but more than anticipated revenues.

Revenues are expected to total $46.8 million, and a carryover of $39 million will help balance the budget.

Safety services consume the largest portion of the township’s budget at $33.2 million combined for police, fire and EMS. Voters approved new 2-mill levies each for police and fire last November. The existing 6-mill fire levy had gone untouched, meaning it hasn’t been replaced or adjusted, since 2006. For police, it had been since 2010.

Property taxes are the largest income source, and Finance Director Ken Keim budgeted $37.4 million for this year; however those revenues are likely to be higher than the budget reflects. Keim assumed a 10% property value hike, but when County Auditor Roger Reynolds submitted his six-year reassessment numbers to the state, he was told to increase them to 20% on average. Reynolds has appealed the increase.

When Trustee Mark Welch asked about the dispute, Keim said the township’s values will likely increase about 14.5%, but he kept revenue projections at the more conservative 10% level.

The general fund covers most expenses outside of safety services, and Keim budgeted $8 million, with an anticipated carryover of nearly $10 million. Some highlights from that fund include $250,000 for revitalization of the U.S. 42 corridor and $75,000 for feasibility study of a possible addition to the MidPointe Library for a community gathering space.

“For 2021 we’re projecting revenues in this fund of $5.3 million,” Keim said. “While an increase in property tax revenue is expected, we remain skeptical in projections from all other sources in the general fund.”

Here are the budgeted amounts for the major operating funds:

  • Police: $17.1 million
  • Fire: $16 million
  • General fund: $8 million
  • Roads: $5.6 million

Police Chief Joel Herzog said personnel matters are high on his to-do list this year. He has eight vacancies to fill and he anticipates five of his people will participate in the cost-saving retire/rehire program.

“The retire/rehire practice allows the township to benefit from maintaining the institutional knowledge of those longtime officers and employees while retaining them at a reduced salary,” Herzog said. “In 2019 the police department saved over $150,000 under the retire/rehire program and in 2020 we saved an additional $120,000.”

The fire department has had personnel challenges as well, fueled by the pandemic. When asked by Welch about $900,000 in overtime, Fire Chief Rick Prinz said they are working on an alternative staffing solution.

“COVID did have a significant impact on that overall cost,” Prinz said. “There was a point where we had several firefighters who were sick and or in quarantine and we had to be able to staff the department, so overtime was required to cover those shifts.”

Road work is also a major component of the spending plan for this year. Community Services Director Tim Franck said $3.3 million in road and TIF funds will allow the township to re-pave 5.5 miles, repair curbs and gutters and storm pipes. TIF funds will also pay for an estimated $4 million to land and streetscape the new Union Centre Boulevard at Interstate 75, among other projects.

The township works with the Butler County Engineer’s Office on many road projects and Franck said that partnership has saved taxpayers about $4 million over nine years.

Quoting Keim about “budgeting to need,” Trustee Ann Becker said, “I think that is what makes West Chester one of the best communities fiscally responsibly, and making sure we spend our money in the right places. We look at what our community needs and we spend the money well.”

The trustees do not formally approve the budget; expenses over $7,500 are approved individually by resolution.