Lake Township trustees voted Thursday night to appeal a ruling this week that voided a police levy approved by voters in November.
Trustees called a special meeting to vote on appealing the ruling in Stark County Common Pleas Court to the Ohio Supreme Court.
“A majority of the people did vote in favor of the police levy. I am looking forward to having a clarification of the judge’s opinion in this matter,” said trustee John Arnold.
Judge John G. Haas ruled Wednesday that a substantial error in the ballot language last fall misled voters and might have affected the outcome.
The incorrect language appeared in legal notices in the Hartville News and on the ballot voters read. It indicated the 4.5-mill police levy would cost 45 cents in property tax for every $1,000 of taxable home value. In reality, it would cost taxpayers $4.50 per $1,000.
A group of residents sued to void the result. They argued that voters relied on the incorrect ballot language to make up their minds and are now getting billed on their property taxes 10 times more than expected for police protection.
The controversial levy, designed to raise $2.59 million a year, passed by 490 votes out of more than 10,000 cast.
It allowed the Uniontown Police Department to expand Jan. 1 to serve all areas of Lake Township except Hartville, which has its own department. Before that, the Stark County Sheriff’s Office responded to calls in areas of the township that Uniontown and Hartville police did not cover.
Common Pleas Judge Frank Forchione, on behalf of Haas, issued a stay of the ruling pending an appeal.
With Forchione’s order in place, township police Chief Harold Britt said, his officers will continue to patrol the entire township “while the matter is being decided by the Supreme Court.”
Thursday night’s meeting drew a vocal crowd of about 50 residents – some in favor of the levy and others opposed.
Among the questions posed to trustees was why they didn’t just pull the plug on the levy when concerns over the language were first raised in October.
Arnold said by then it was too late, as the absentee ballots were already out.
Resident Michael Kemp said he wonders why trustees didn’t vote to put it on the ballot in the March primary. The deadline for that election has passed, so the township will have to wait until the November election.
Lake resident Nancy Burn said she is disappointed.
“I’ve waited 40 years for police protection in Lake Township,” she said.
Burn said the bottom line is the majority of the voters who cast a ballot in November approved the levy, so the issue should stand.
Stark County Auditor Alan Harold and Treasurer Alexander Zumbar issued a joint statement this week urging people to pay their taxes.
“We advise all taxpayers within Lake Township to pay their respective bill as presented by the due date of Feb. 15, 2012. Any increase or decrease to one’s taxes will be adjusted with the second-half bill, pending the final outcome of this case.”