BUTLER TWP. – In light of last week’s letter from the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office to the Butler Township Trustees regarding police levy funds and how they can, and cannot be used, various questions have been asked both on social media and in email. Below are some common questions and answers about where the issue currently stands:
What exactly did the Prosecutor’s letter say?
The Prosecutor’s Chief of the Civil Division sent a letter to the Butler Township Trustees saying that police levy funds could not be used to pay for a contract with the Montgomery County Sheriff for police services. The reason for this is that the language of the police levy passed in 2006 has a stated purpose of “providing and maintaining motor vehicles, communications, and other equipment used directly in the operation of a police department, or the payment of salaries of permanent police personnel…”
The Ohio Constitution says “a tax can only be applied for the purpose from which it was authorized.” The prosecutor also cited various court cases.
Does this mean that the township cannot contract with the Sheriff’s Office for police services?
No. The township can still contract with the Sheriff for police services, but it cannot use funds from the current police levy to pay for it. Other funding sources would need to be found.
How much does the current police levy generate annually?
Why can Harrison and Washington Township use their police levies to pay for police services and yet Butler Township cannot?
The police levies as passed by voters in Harrison and Washington Township specifically state that the funds can be used to contract with another political subdivision for police services. Butler Township’s levy language has no reference to contracting services out.
Why is the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office involved?
By law, the Prosecutor’s Office serves as the township’s legal counsel on matters unless the Trustees choose to employ outside counsel. Board of Trustees President Mike Lang asked for a review after the controversial vote to contract with the Sheriff.
What happens next?
It’s unclear. It’s my understanding that Trustees Joe Flanagan and Nick Brusky are still in favor of contracting with the Sheriff and are looking into the validity of the Prosecutor’s opinion. Nothing in the opinion prevents the contract from going forward – but that would require finding several hundred thousand dollars in funding that the township simply doesn’t have.
The trustees are due to meet again in a regular meeting on June 27. However, Trustee Lang has long been scheduled to be out of the country so there is a possibility of a special meeting being called prior to that date.
What is clear from my conversations with Brusky and Lang is that there is a strong feeling that the matter needs to be resolved as quickly as possible due to the limbo that all parties are left in – the Sheriff’s Office, the township’s police officers, and the township itself.
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.