The Jefferson Township board of trustees said this week they have yet to hear any word following a letter sent to the Fayette County Commissioners in July concerning double taxation in the township for Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
In May, by a vote of 255-152, Jefferson Township’s 5-mill continuing levy for EMS passed at the primary election. Also at the primary, a county-wide 1.3-mill, three-year tax levy for ambulance and EMS services in order to keep services intact also passed by a 2,302-1,681 vote. Due to the passage of both levies, residents in Jefferson Township will be double taxed for EMS services.
On Monday, the trustees of Jefferson Township invited the Record-Herald to their office to discuss the issue of double taxing their residents, and what they say is a lack of response from the commissioners after a letter was sent by Jefferson Township’s special counsel — Brosius, Johnson & Griggs (BJG), LLC, out of Columbus.
In the the letter dated July 25, BJG introduced the topic with the commissioners and requested a meeting with them (or a designated representative or legal counsel) to discuss a solution.
“We have seen the commissioners at different events and we sent the letter and we have had no mention at all,” Jefferson Township Trustee Ryan Yenger said. “Basically we hired attorneys out of Columbus to represent us, because the prosecutor also represents us and the county, so we had to get an attorney of our own to handle our side of things. We found them through the Ohio Township Association and they have handled 10 to 12 similar types of cases in Ohio where this has happened before. In the letter that was sent, it cites the Ohio Revised Code that could help us. Basically it allows a township to lower the current levy they have. So the solution was we would lower our levy by the amount that the county would be taxing us, and the county would write us a check for us doing the services instead of them providing the services.”
Back in May, Yenger spoke with the Record-Herald about the reasoning behind the Jefferson Township levy. According to Yenger, the decision was made because of long response times to get to Jefferson Township. He said in May that it could take upwards of 15 minutes or longer to reach them and that the average response time was only at 12-and-a-half minutes because volunteers from the township helped to lower the response time.
Initially, Yenger and the other trustees looked to increase sales tax at Tanger Outlets to help balance out the costs associated with the EMS service, but this idea was scrapped pretty early by the commissioners, according to Yenger. This resulted in the levy being placed on the ballot.
In an attempt to contact the commissioners this week for comment on the issue, Fayette County Prosecutor Jess Weade returned a call on their behalf.
“I know that at one point in time the commissioners and I have discussed this very briefly,” Weade said on Tuesday. “In terms of a response and whether or not the commissioners will or will not respond, I can’t really say. I don’t want to speak for them on that end. I think they will respond. We had a meeting where we planned to discuss it, and I was unavailable that day and it unfortunately hasn’t been rescheduled. I would agree that Jefferson Township needs a response one way or the other. I know commissioner (Dan) Dean is back next week, I think this is something the commissioners should get on the front of their agenda so we can at least get a response back to Jefferson Township.”
Using the strategy outlined by BJG and the trustees, the Record-Herald asked Weade if — legally — it was an option for the county to pay Jefferson Township the portion of the county-wide EMS levy that is earned in its area while Jefferson Township lowers its own levy to balance out the amount residents are paying.
“Whether we could do that and that would be legal is not something I have looked into at this point, nor have I really been asked to look into it at this point,” Weade said. “I can’t answer that one way or another. I understand the township’s concern, it is something that needs to be figured out and at least get an answer back to the township of what the county intends to do one way or another.”
Stay with the Record-Herald for more on the double taxation issue in the coming weeks.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.