RUSSELL — Township residents will not be voting on a park levy during the Nov. 5 election. Members of the Russell Citizens Park District last week decided to withdraw the 1-mill levy from the ballot, according to park board member Perry Howland.
The reason centers on the budget of the district formed in 2017.
“After submitting the budget, the auditor had questions, and it was decided to withdraw the levy,” Mr. Howland said of Geauga County Auditor Chuck Walder. “The auditor has been a great help and we are looking to work with his office and proceed in 2020 for a levy,” Mr. Howland said.
Roy Podojil is chairman of the park district for which the board members are appointed by the Russell Township Trustees. The other members include Mr. Howland and Stephanie Snevel. Maria Livers serves as secretary.
Last year, the citizens park district as well as the Russell Township Park District had levies on the ballot with both failing at the polls.
Mr. Podojil noted that Mr. Walder was not satisfied with the budget. The plan is now for Mr. Howland to meet with Mr. Walder who will advise the board on what needs to be done to be in compliance, Mr. Podojil said. “Chuck is a lot of help to us in getting things straightened out,” he said. The board will meet in August to talk about the budget, but the date has not been set.
“We have to have a budget hearing at the auditor’s office,” he said. The budget was not in the format wanted by the auditor. And there is no sense in placing it on the ballot if they are not sure they can collect on it, Mr. Podojil said. Talk will center on whether a 1-mill levy or less is needed, he added.
Mr. Walder said last week that Mr. Howland met with his office to discuss the park district’s 2020 tax budget submission. His office provided Mr. Howland with guidance as to the requirements needed, including a two-year look back of revenue and expenditures, as well as the current year revenue and expenditures and a one-year budget of revenue and expenditures.
During the meeting, it was recommended that the park board have a formal forward plan in place to adequately demonstrate the need for levy revenue, Mr. Walder said.
The auditor informed park board members that they had not obtained the needed certification of beginning balance for 2019. This document permits the county auditor to vet the park district’s budget submission with a goal of receiving county certification and approval for appropriation measures for 2019, according to Mr. Walder.
Ohio law requires government entities to certify resources prior to appropriating and expending funds, he said.
“As a new government entity, the (citizens park board) is learning the requirements of government accounting,” he said. The decision to delay the levy request was wise and appropriate, Mr. Walder said.
Mr. Podojil noted there is paper work to be done in order for the park district to be in compliance. He added that Mr. Howland is handling the matter for the park board, and the levy could go on the ballot in May of 2020.
“We wanted to make sure all our ducks are in a row,” Mr. Podojil said. They also can’t use any of the start-up funds given to the park district by the township. “The auditor advised us we cannot use it,” he said. “We are disappointed we can’t use the start-up money. It’s all a new process for us.”
He noted the park district had filed with the Geauga County Board of Elections for the levy and then had to write to the board of elections to say they were not going to attempt it now and to withdraw the issue. The park district members will be working to get everything in compliance now so they can go for the levy, he said.
“We have not decided how much yet and we will be discussing it,” Mr. Podojil said of a levy in the future. “There are properties available that we would like to purchase for parks,” he added. There are at least three and now the park district will have to wait and see what happens in the future.
They want to make sure everything is done above board, and the vast majority of residents would agree with that, he said. “We want to be a good board and do what they want.”
Residents Shelley Chernin and Betsy Rader will be coordinating the levy campaign efforts. “I’m looking forward to serving on the committee,” Ms. Chernin said. She also noted that “It is best to wait until the right time to put on a levy.”