The Village of Aquilla is on its way to become a township – at least on paper – after the Geauga County Commissioners acknowledged and accepted the municipality’s petition to detach from Claridon.
Attorney James M. Gillette represented the county village in its request to the commissioners during a March 30 meeting to become a township. He said the newly erected “Aquilla Township” would retain the same boundaries, less than 1 square mile, and become a township that still operates as a village – as Aquilla Village.
“What the statute provides is that if the village territorial limits are identical to the township territorial limits, there are no township offices that are created and that municipal corporal officers, the council persons and the fiscal officers will continue to operate,” he explained. “In essence, what we’re doing here is we’re creating what’s referred to as a ‘paper township,’ but Aquilla Village will continue to operate as it always has been. The township [title] is there for purposes only of receiving the tax distributions.”
Aquilla’s population was estimated at 340 residents in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
By detaching itself from Claridon, he explained Aquilla will be able to receive additional tax revenue from 10 inside mills shared with the township. Under current operations, Aquilla receives just 0.5 mills of the 10 inside mills, as distributed by Claridon.
The 10 mills are divided between the county at about 2.5 mills, the Chardon Local School District at 4.5 mills and Claridon Township at 3 mills. Of these 3 mills, he said, Claridon distributes the half-mill to Aquilla for their roads.
“With the creation of Aquilla Township, what will happen is Aquilla’s property will be valued separately from the Claridon Township property,” Mr. Gillette said, adding that because the village’s current location is within township boundaries, they’re “conglomerated together” under one valuation. “Claridon Township has a discretion to determine how much of that 3-mill inside millage they will share with Aquilla, and that’s varied over the years.”
Based on estimates from Geauga County Auditor Charles Walder, “the village will in the future receive approximately $13,000 in inside millage, whereas now they’re getting about $2,000,” Mr. Gillette explained.
Aquilla Mayor Richard Wolfe told commissioners that the village is working to achieve “total control over our income tax money into the village,” adding that council has held several public meetings with Mr. Gillette and Mr. Walder on the subject.
Claridon Trustee Jonathan Tiber told the commissioners that the township is in full support of Aquilla’s detachment.
“Although they have not approached us about this, if they would have, they would know that the entire board is in full support of them,” Mr. Tiber said. “They have been operating proudly, independently for decades and they’re just good people there in Aquilla Village.”
While Aquilla’s decision to detach has been an ongoing discussion in the village, Mr. Tiber said Claridon’s shifting of millage two years ago put their talks on the fast tracks.
“Two years ago, Claridon Township, our general fund was bleeding pretty heavily,” he recounted. “So, we shifted millage from our road and bridge, 1 mill, to our general fund.”
The shift was a temporary tourniquet, he said, but it took 1 mill away from Aquilla, representing about $4,600, “which is significant for Aquilla Village.
“That really put a hurting on them,” Mr. Tiber said. “I think they always wanted to be independent, but that’s probably when they really started getting their wheels rolling, which I can’t blame them.”
Mr. Tiber said that the village has fallen in a “gray area” with the township, explaining that Aquilla votes for the township trustees among other things, but they don’t vote on township roads and have their own levies for their own Aquilla certified roads.
“I hate to lose them because they’re such good people,” he added, “but at the same time, we’re in full support.”
With the commissioners’ approval of Aquilla’s petition, the next steps for the village include the “formalities” of filing the necessary paperwork with the county auditor, which will be recorded by the county recorder, Mr. Gillete explained. “The board of elections will be notified of the detachment from Claridon, and we will also notify the Secretary of State of the detachment from Claridon.”