SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT Board hopes building fees will cover expenses

The district is slated to receive no money from Mahoning County this year.
CANFIELD -- Members of the Mahoning County Soil and Water Conservation District board hope that an increase in fees for building in the county can offset funds it's not getting from the county commissioners.
As an optional service of county government, the district won't receive any money from this year's general fund because of Mahoning County's budget crunch. For the last four years, the district has received about $95,000 annually from the county.
That money is used as a match to get money from Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Soil and Water.
Susan Smith, business manager for the county district, said Commissioner Anthony Traficanti has indicated a willingness to talk with district representatives to try to come up with suggestions on ways to get money for the district.
"We need to get creative in thinking about where we'll get our money from," she said.
Hope for funds
The district is still hoping for a $40,000 allocation from ODNR. That, combined with the $103,000 the district carried over from last year, would get the district through July.
The carryover already has been depleted to about $83,000.
The district plans to suggest to commissioners an increase of the construction plan review and inspection fee.
The increased fees would range from $150 to $1,300 for building lots of five or more acres, except single family residential lots. The amount depends on the percentage of the lot "disturbed" by the development.
Those fees now range from $50 to $250 and about $3,000 in fees was collected in 2004.
That doesn't compensate for the work the conservation district's inspector does at construction sites, ensuring that developers are in compliance with soil and water regulations, Smith said.
The district also is saddled with storm water management regulations being implemented by Ohio and U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies without funding.
If the commissioners would agree to the increase in fees, and if the county would collect them and allocate the increase to the district, that money could be used to leverage more match money from the state, officials said.
Smith said the district already has restricted training and travel for employees and cut staff after the county's sales tax renewal failed last year.
That failure is causing this year's budget crunch.