Lucas County officials told a gathering in Springfield Township last night that plummeting tax receipts and a badly squeezed budget are forcing them to discontinue free sheriff's patrols to eight townships starting Jan. 1.
Pete Gerken, president of the county commissioners, used the term "economic crisis" to describe the situation.
"I don't have to tell you the economics of Lucas County have been horrible for the last 18 months," he said.
The meeting of the Lucas County Township Association attracted about 70 people to the Springfield Township Hall. County Administrator Mike Beazley told them that sales tax receipts, the largest source of general fund revenue, were running 9 percent below last year's. Real estate-related fees, he added, were down 21 percent this year.
He explained that Ohio law required county governments to pay for such amenities as courts and a jail, but that the road patrols were a discretionary service, and "we're eliminating general-fund services that are not mandated."
Eliminating the free road patrols will save the county's $140 million budget about $5.1 million, he said.
The townships affected account for about 10 percent of the county's 441,000 residents, Mr. Beazley noted. They are Harding, Jerusalem, Monclova, Providence, Richfield, Spencer, Springfield, and Swanton. All of them rely on sheriff's deputies for road patrols and police protection. The county bills them nothing for this service, with the exception of Springfield, which pays $500,000 annually for an extra deputy on each shift.
The impending change has township officials scrambling, and wondering where they're going to find the money to pay for this added expense.
Sheriff James Telb told them last night they should examine all their options, but in the end he hoped they would decide to stay with his agency. County officials say they can continue to provide road patrols at a per capita cost of $109, which is well below the average $282 per resident paid by the majority of Lucas County communities with their own police departments.
Springfield Township Trustee Andy Glenn said the sheriff's price would cost his community $3 million out of a $10 million budget, including the money it already pays for the extra deputy.
Similarly, Chuck Hoecherl, a Monclova Township trustee, said his community's bill would be $747,000 "in a township with a budget of a little over $7 million."
Mr. Glenn asked Sheriff Telb, who was standing beside Mr. Gerken and Mr. Beazley, if the commissioners had made a smart decision on this matter.
"I don't think it's a wanted decision," the sheriff answered. "It may not be a good decision, but it's necessary."
Lance Martin, a Providence Township trustee, said the affected populace was not taking well to the new policy.
Before the meeting, he said: "I haven't talked to one person who wants to pay one penny for this. They feel they're paying enough in taxes, and they want to know if they're going to get their taxes reduced if they have to pay for sheriff's patrols."
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