Residents Question $1.6 Million Transfer

(posted Apr 10)

Taxpayers, including Clermont residents, filled the Wayne Township Small Claims courtroom Thursday night to question the township board's action to transfer $1,675,696 to the rainy day fund. The board and township trustee came under taxpayer scrutiny during the April 9 public hearing to move money from the fire territory fund.

CPA Curtis Coonrod was surprised that his recommendation to move the money from the dormant fire territory fund to the rainy day fund became such a controversial item for taxpayers. He said ordinarily most taxpayers do not like to see money in dormant funds. Prior to the meeting, the proposal created a media frenzy over speculation of what would happen to the money.

Coonrod advised the township to make the additional appropriation since the fire territory was dissolved in 2007 and the money could no longer be spent. He said the money could be moved to the rainy day fund where the board could spend it on debt, fire protection, or public assistance.

Public notice would be required if the board decided to spend the $1.6 million from the rainy day fund. "I am giving you my word on that," Township Trustee David Baird said. He said that dormant funds cannot be counted as assets, so the money has to be moved from the fire territory fund.

Discerning taxpayers were not convinced that the transfer approved by the board would not cost them more money in the long term.

According to Board member Lisa Bentley, the board took similar action last year in moving $1.5 million. She said the $1.6 million needs to be moved to the rainy fund to offset the fire levy in 2010.

Resident Charles Davis was not convinced that once the money was spent from the rainy day fund that residents would not be taxed again.

Deputy Trustee Lynn McWhirter explained people cannot be taxed to support the rainy day fund. She said it is not the intent of the board or trustee to use the funds for anything other than fire protection.

Davis said "You can tax us for other things like $1.5 million for the fire department or $1.5 million for whatever because you no longer have the $1.5 million in the rainy day fund because you have spent it."

Clermont Town Attorney Robert Lutz said the fire territory resolution contained a provision that if the fire territory was dissolved, the money would be distributed pro-rata after the bills are paid. He thinks Clermont's share is about $7,600. Wayne Township and Clermont dissolved the fire territory in 2007.

Grant Price wanted the money to be used for the township assistance fund. Coonrod said that option was not in the resolution because not all Wayne Township residents were taxed for the fire protection territory.

One resident was "shocked" that the fire department employs 137 firefighters and 28 EMS personnel. He said he hoped the additional appropriation is not going to be used to increase their wages.

The board's resolution also requires Department of Local Government Finance approval before the board can take further action with the money.