LAKE TWP: Trustees are considering diverting taxes that would head for schools and other public entities to fund the widening of state Route 619, a congested two-lane road with intermittent center turning lanes.
Citizens and school officials, including Lake Superintendent Jeff Wendorf, acknowledge a need to widen the main east-west road past popular attractions and numerous businesses but have criticized the proposed method: a tax increment financing plan, commonly called a TIF.
“Our argument is, when we pass our levies, it says specifically on the ballot it is to be used to educate students, not to fund road projects,” Wendorf said. “We totally agree that 619 should be widened, just not with education dollars.”
Wendorf estimates Lake schools could lose $2 million over 10 years, or $550 per student, should township trustees move forward with a resolution Monday to divert increased tax revenue on property developments along state Route 619.
“It’s the loss of 3 or 4 mills over a 10-year period,” Wendorf estimated.
The idea is that as nearly 200 acres of property selected along Route 619 (Edison Street) are developed in coming years, the value of that property, which includes Hartville MarketPlace and Hartville Kitchen, would increase, in turn raising tax collections. The proposal would allow trustees to determine how most of the additional property tax would be spent.
“We have no input as property owners as to how our taxes are to be spent,” said Gary Sommers, chief financial officer for HRM Enterprises, which owns part of the property that trustees hope will develop and bring in much-needed taxes to fund the road project.
Sommers said the company, which found out about the proposal only a week ago, always is considering development but has no concrete plans at this time. HRM Enterprises and other property owners would receive no incentive for the diverted taxes.
“We don’t have a say as to whether or not our property is ‘TIFed,’ just like the school district has no say,” Sommers said.
The trustees’ proposal locks in property value and diverts 75 percent of any additional revenue from increased value to pay off the road project over the next 10 years.
Ohio law allows a municipal government to divert the additional tax revenue without the consent of the school that would otherwise receive the taxes. Only when the proposed reallocation of property taxes exceeds 10 years or 75 percent would trustees be required to get permission from the school, an official with the Stark County Auditor’s Office explained.
Legal counsel for Lake Township, who was unavailable for comment, told the Canton Repository last month that the only other way to fund the road project would be to place a new road levy on the ballot. He said that issue probably would fail.
Trustees, who are expected to vote on the tax issue 6:30 p.m. Monday at Lake Township Hall, 12360 Market Ave., Hartville, also did not return messages seeking comment.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.