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Published: Saturday, 10/4/2008

Sylvania Township trustees reject merger proposal

BY ANGIE SCHMITT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sylvania Township trustees voted unanimously yesterday against a Nov. 4 ballot issue that would form a commission to develop a plan to merge the township with the city of Sylvania.

In their resolution, trustees cited overwhelming response from township residents, who expressed their skepticism of promises to reduce local residents tax burden.

Trustees also took issue with the composition of the proposed merger commission.

As a result of a recent annexation, one of the five commissioners selected to represent the township will be a resident of the city by Election Day.

Merger commission supporters have said that former township resident and commissioner candidate Sam Steinman eventually would be replaced by a valid township resident, although his name will appear on the ballot.

But trustees said that the procedure for replacement of a merger commissioner representing Sylvania Township is unclear and ambiguous under the current circumstances.

Trustee Pam Hanley said township residents have made it clear that they oppose further study of merger.

People are concerned, and rightfully so, about several issues, Ms. Hanley said. One is an increased tax burden. The other is the township pride.

They like the efficiency and they like being able to choose how they pay their taxes, she added.

Ohio merger law requires that the elected bodies of both communities affected by a potential merger vote to endorse or oppose the issue.

It is not clear, however, whether that vote should precede the establishment a merger commission or the enacting of a merger.

Sylvania City Council endorsed the ballot issue 6-0 last week, with Councilman Mark Luetke not present.

The merger commission issue will appear as Issue 8 in Sylvania and Issue 16 in Sylvania Township.

It will ask voters to approve the establishment of a commission of 10 candidates five from the city and five from the township to develop the conditions under which the two communities would be merged.

Lucas County elections officials said a majority vote from both the communities is needed for passage.

If voters approve the issue, a second majority vote on a formal merger plan would be needed to join the two communities.

Advocates of a merger commission have pointed out that the details of a merger proposal have yet to be decided. They have promised, however, that it would have tax benefits for residents of both political subdivisions.

A study by the University of Toledo s Urban Affairs Center found that a merger could significantly reduce property taxes in both the city and the township.

The study assumed the city s 1.5 percent income tax would be extended to township residents, creating an additional $12 million in annual revenue.

About $5 million of that total would be paid by township residents; the rest would be paid by those who work within the township but live elsewhere, the study found.

Eighty percent of those who work in Sylvania and Sylvania Township live outside the communities, UT researchers estimate. The study estimated the additional revenue would allow the city to reduce property taxes for the owner of a $200,000 home by $227 a year for city residents and $491 for township residents, said Lynn Bachelor,

co-author of the study.

Contact Angie Schmitt at: aschmitt@theblade.com or 419-724-6104.



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