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Oles says she won't discourage support for police levy

By Ian Hill

Friday, January 23, 2004

She voted against a resolution to keep the levy on the March ballot.
& lt;a & gt;By IAN HILL & lt;/a & gt;
AUSTINTOWN -- Township Trustee Lisa Oles says she won't tell residents to vote against the 2.5-mill police levy when it appears on the ballot this March.
"Now that the police levy's on the ballot, I'm not going to discourage residents from supporting it," she said. "I support safety forces 150 percent, like they supported me."
The township's police union endorsed Oles over incumbent Rich Edwards in November's election.
When asked if she'll support the levy, however, Oles wouldn't comment. She noted that if the levy passes in March, "it would make my life easier."
Township officials have said the money is needed because the township has a deficit. Trustee David Ditzler said he believes Oles should take a stand on the levy.
"Either you believe we need it or you don't believe you need it. You can't be in the middle of the road," he said. "She's got to get off the fence."
The situation so far
During her campaign, Oles had promised to rehire laid-off police officers and firefighters without increasing the tax burden on residents. Township officials have said the township had a $412,000 deficit at the end of last year, and trustees made several budget cuts and laid off two police officers and seven part-time firefighters in an effort to save money.
Trustees said the layoffs were necessary because the township spends more than 80 percent of its budget on salaries. Ditzler noted that as a result of the layoffs and budget cuts, township officials are expecting to have a smaller deficit -- $150,000 -- at the end of this year.
The levy, which failed by 900 votes when it appeared on the November ballot, would allow the township to collect about $1.4 million each year in additional revenue for police. On Monday, Oles voted against a resolution to keep the police levy on the March ballot.
The resolution had no legal implications, as trustees had already voted to have the levy on the ballot in December, before Oles took office.
"The decision to place it on the ballot was not mine," Oles said.
Monday's resolution was supported by Ditzler and fellow Trustee Bo Pritchard and passed 2-1. Pritchard could not be reached for comment.
Not enough time
Oles, who took office Jan. 1, noted that she hasn't had enough time to follow through with plans to raise money for the township without raising taxes. She has negotiated to have Lane LifeTRANS Paramedics pay the township $1,500 each month to store ambulances at Fire Station No. 3 on South Raccoon Road.
The money should be used to reopen fire station No. 4, which trustees closed last year in an effort to save money, and rehire laid-off firefighters, Oles said. Ditzler, however, said the money should be used to reduce the township's deficit.
He noted that the $18,000 collected annually through the deal with Lane's wouldn't be enough to cover the deficit in the fire department's fund. So if the money is used to reopen No. 4, the fire department will still have a deficit, and the township will not be addressing the financial problems that led to the station's closing in the first place.
Oles also has supported the sale of about nine acres of township land on Woodridge Drive to Leonard Kirtz School for $10,000 an acre. Pritchard and Ditzler both said they didn't want to sell the land because it is used by residents in the Woodridge Drive neighborhood for recreation.
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