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My Way

Open the piggy bank and give us a break

March 26, 2014 - One of my biggest pet peeves is when a government entity that's sitting on a mountain of extra money asks the beleaguered taxpayers to reach into their well-worn pockets and give more.

To me, it's the epitome of greed and bad government.

I will always fight it tooth and nail whenever I see it happening. In this case, I'm hoping officials will nip it in the bud before it happens and I have to go on the warpath.

Right now, Oxford Township is sitting on a huge pile of cash – about $2.4 million. That's the amount of the township's fund balance (i.e. cash reserves).

The Oxford Fire Department needs approximately $825,000 to build a 4,400-square-foot addition to Station #1, plus about $220,000 to refurbish two trucks that are almost 20 years old.

To pay for this, the department has requested a proposed six-year, 3.9-mill property tax be placed on the November ballot.

Of this, 2.5 mills constitutes an operations renewal; the rest is an increase. Of the increase, 1 mill would be used to hire two additional full-time firefighters/paramedics, plus a part-timer to make up for the lack of paid-on-call personnel, while the remaining 0.4 mill would be used to pay for the station addition and truck refurbishment.

I have absolutely no problem with the renewal portion and I fully understand the department's need for additional staff given the number of calls has risen by nearly 80 percent since 2006.

But I do take issue with the 0.4 mill-request for capital purposes. I see the need for adequate firefighter sleeping quarters and a kitchen. I definitely see the need for truck refurbishment, which is an infinitely better option than spending about $900,000 for a pair of new trucks.

My issue is not with the need itself, but with the potential funding source – more money from me, more money from you, more money from us.

I wholeheartedly agree with Trustee Jack Curtis that the township should dip into its massive fund balance to pay for these capital expenses rather than asking the taxpayers to pony up more moola.

"Let's pay for that building with that, instead of re-taxing the people," he said at the March 12 meeting. "We can use our surplus . . . We already got the money . . . I don't want to have to pay again."

Amen, Brother Jack!

It's not like the township is hurting for cash and it's not like officials have been shy about spending the fund balance. I've lost track of exactly how much has gone out the door for the design and construction of new safety paths over the last few years.

Back in December, officials didn't hesitate to transfer $985,000 from the reserves for the 8,375-square-foot addition they're planning for the township hall.

Despite these actions, the township still has a hefty fund balance that just keeps growing and growing due to wise, conservative and sound fiscal management practices – no embezzlements there.

It's time for township officials to loosen their Scrooge McDuck-like grip on the reserves for their own projects, share the wealth with the fire department and give the taxpayers a much-needed and well-deserved break.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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