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Published: 2/13/2006

Bedford voters likely to see 5 levy requests

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - There are likely to be five or more property-tax levy requests on the ballot in Bedford Township this year, a number that's sure to force voters to weigh the priorities within their community.

Schools, roads, police, and parks will compete throughout the year for voter approval, with backers of each levy request trying to convince voters no matter how they feel about what else is coming, their request deserves support.

Two of the five possible requests are renewals of previous measures, and their place on this year's ballots is already decided.

The Monroe County Intermediate School District will ask voters May 2 to renew the countywide 1-mill technology levy for another five years.

The technology levy, first passed in 1997, generates about $5.3 million a year that is used to provide computers, software, and other learning tools for the county's approximately 25,000 students.

Monroe County is still the only county in the state that has a countywide technology millage.

The Bedford Parks and Recreation Commission will seek a renewal of the 0.25-mill levy that it passed in August, 2002.

This year's request, which park board Chairman Mark Fuller said will be on the Aug. 8 ballot, will be the first time the millage is up for renewal and will give voters an opportunity to comment on the large number of improvements made to the township's parks since 2002. Those improvements include new playscapes and new recreational opportunities like disc golf and remote control racing.

The renewal is viewed as vital to the park board's plan to develop a 57-acre park near Samaria. Plans are being formulated as to what will be placed there, but early discussion includes a sledding hill and a fishing pond.

Perhaps the biggest struggle is occurring at Bedford Public Schools, where administrators and board members are working toward placing a sinking fund on the ballot sometime this year. Sinking funds are used to pay for capital improvement projects such as roof and boiler repairs.

Bedford Superintendent Jon White said the district doesn't want any such request to interfere with efforts to renew the countywide technology millage, but state law limits the dates on which school districts may ask voters for extra money.

"We're still looking at August or November. We just haven't made a decision," Mr. White said. "Our No. 1 priority is getting the technology millage passed. We're really not at a point where we've settled on the size of the [sinking fund] request, or for that matter really on a date."

Bedford Township officials also are preparing to ask voters to raise their property taxes to cover the costs of hiring four additional deputies.

Township Trustee Larry O'Dell said the plan under consideration would place a seven-year, 0.4-mill levy on the August ballot - along with the park renewal - to pay for the added contract deputies, who cost about $85,000 each annually.

Mr. O'Dell said he and other members of the committee studying the law enforcement issue believe the two township issues on the same ballot won't necessarily compete with each other. "I'm not worried about it," he said. "The park levy really isn't that much, and they've done a good job.

"I think the park levy and a police safety levy are things the township can embrace without too much problem."

Though it may not come from the township directly, voters in Bedford Township and elsewhere across Monroe County also may see a property tax request on the ballot this year for road improvements.

The Monroe County Road Commission and an ad-hoc group called the Better Roads Committee have been trying to generate support for a local road millage this year.

The initial proposal thrown out for consideration would have been a 1-mill or 2-mill countywide levy, but response to those trial balloons was tepid on the local level.

The group may instead opt to seek a number of individual local township road levies as a way to ease local concerns about who would control where funding is spent.

Road Commission Managing Director Ralph Lange said last week the three road commissioners and the committee members are trying to decide what to put on the ballot and when.

"It's undecided right now. If we're going to do it this year, we're going to have to make that decision within the next couple months," Mr. Lange said.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: lvellequette@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.



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