The $30.4 million Liberty Twp. budget for next year will be balanced with funds the township has been saving for years, knowing exploding growth would eventually demand more infrastructure and services.
A new administration building/sheriff’s outpost, a $2 million project on Princeton Road and a new fire station are the big ticket items on the preliminary budget list that will be supported by about $27.2 million in revenues. The township expects to carry over around $23 million, in all funds, from this year and more than $10 million is unrestricted funds.
Liberty Twp. Trustee Steve Schramm said he isn’t “happy” about the shortfall between what they plan to spend and the money coming in, but officials have planned for it.
“We are the watchdogs of the budget and if I see some red ink I get frustrated about it,” he said. “I think we all were, even when you understand it you still don’t have to like it. We are still financially very strong.”
The township is one of the fastest growing places in Butler County and the state, quadrupling in population to about 40,000 residents over two decades.
Liberty Twp. Trustee Christine Matacic, who has been a trustee for 17 years, said they have been building up funds for years, knowing the population explosion would likely push expenditures higher than revenues early on in the growth curve.
“We have been putting money aside up until several years ago for these projects and over the last few years we’ve started initiating some of these projects and getting them done,” she said. “We knew once we hit this point we’d be spending more money than we were taking in.”
The widening project on Princeton Road between Cincinnati Dayton and Butler Warren roads is a prime example of growth placing demands on the township budget, according to Matacic. She said the two-lane road is well traveled, and with almost no shoulder, no berms and narrow lanes it is a safety concern.
“Over the last few years we’ve been trying to address those types of issues, with the growth, that way we can improve it a little bit better, make it safer,” she said. “As we’re growing, obviously that’s in our commercial corridor, so we felt it was something that was going to be done sooner versus later.”
Schramm said the road project was one of the biggest hits to the budget and it might mean delaying the purchase of a $1.2 million ladder truck for the fire department. That issue is under staff review now.
The township also expects to spend about $5.2 million on the new administration complex — it was moved to Ohio 747 after a $1.8 million site preparation bill nixed plans to build on land the township owns on Princeton Road — perhaps using a mix of cash and bonds, according to Schramm.
Construction of the new fire station near the corner of Princeton and Cincinnati Dayton roads may start late in the year next year. Early cost estimates are $1 million to $3 million. The intent is to replace Fire Station 112 on Stumpf Lane off Yankee Road.
Liberty Twp. Trustee Board President Tom Farrell said next year there should have closure on two outstanding issues, namely the walkability plan and a new interchange of Interstate 75 at Millikin Road.
“We are in the process now of talking to stakeholders about private funding,” Farrell said of creating a possible pedestrian bridge over Ohio 129 between Liberty Center and the Children’s Hospital campus, among other projects. “If we get the private funding we will move forward, if we do not get the private funding we will have to look at other options.”
Matacic said taxpayer money will not be spent on the big ticket — the one bridge has a $3.2 million price tag — pedestrian friendly amenities but bike and other paths will continue to be built throughout the township.
As for the interchange, the federal government must approve that project, and Farrell said, “hopefully by the end of 2019 we’ll know whether this is going to be a reality or something we can’t accomplish.”
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