These 4 Butler County communities showing strong fiscal health

Liberty and Ross townships and the cities of Monroe and Trenton have all submitted their annual tax budgets to the Butler County Budget Commission for approval.

LIBERTY TWP.

Liberty Twp. had the biggest spending plan with revenues in all funds totalling $23.5 million against $24 million in expenditures and an ending fund balance of $22.5 million.

The three funds that are taxpayer backed — general, fire and police — total $10.9 million in revenues and $11.8 million in expenses. The fire department has had to dip into reserves to cover its costs, which is why trustees plan to ask voters for more money in November.

The township submitted three options for levy amounts to the county auditor — 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 mills — so they can determine which amount they need.

“We are definitely heading into the negative if we don’t do some thing soon,” Township Administrator Kristen Bitonte told the trustees last month. “Red is not good.”

The tax budget is just a starting point for the budgeting process. Township Finance Director Michelle Gries said at this point there shouldn’t be any big surprises when the final spending plan is drafted.

“The township’s tax budget is the first step in developing the annual operating budget,” Greis said. “The tax budget did not include any unusual items, at this time we are planning 2017 to be status quo.”

MONROE

Monroe filed the next largest tax budget with $34.8 million in estimated revenues, $35.6 million in expenditures and an ending fund balance of $9.7 million. About $18.8 million is for the tax-backed general, fire and police funds. The largest source of income for the cities in the income tax and Monroe’s has jumped from $6.6 million in 2013 to an anticipated $8.7 million next year.

Finance Director Tina Williams said the trend for the city, that a dozen years ago was in a fiscal emergency, continues to look promising.

“The general fund revenues continue to trend upward,” she said. “Our estimates for 2016 and 2017 are based on a forecasted five percent annual increase in income tax revenue. As of May 2016 income tax revenue is up nine percent for the year.”

TRENTON

Trenton’s tax budget had the biggest change of the bunch, since voters in March approved a first ever police levy. The city’s revenues are expected to reach $15.9 million to pay for $15 million worth of expenditures and the city plans to have $12.2 million on hand at the end of 2017.

Finance Director Mike Engel pencilled in $890,000 for the new police levy line item and that money will allow the department to hire four new officers and pay for other needs that had been on the back burner.

Voters approved the 5.25 mill permanent levy by a 60/40 margin in the March 15 primary.

Engel said other funds are looking healthier as well.

“The trending in the other major funds is healthy as well. The projected strength of the major funds for 2017 allowed us to budget some additional capital improvements, some of which had been put off for a while,” he said. “Those include funds to replace a 16 year old vehicle, a new upgraded generator for the administration building, street resurfacing, and various equipment.”

ROSS TWP.

Ross Twp. has had a banner year thus far with moving the administration offices to the old Tragesser Ford building and UDF announcing it is coming to town. They will also be asking voters for a renewal fire levy this year. The township’s tax budget shows $2.7 million in revenues, $2.5 million worth of expenditures and a $3.1 million fund balance.

Administrator Bob Bass said next year their finances will continue to be solid.

“Our revenue is ever so slightly up, but nothing to start a parade over,” he said. “And our expenses remain fairly constant.”

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