No matter where you are in the world articles like this one are something you should pay attention to. Even though the story is a local one, gradually its contents will find you in whatever corner of the world you happen to reside. When I was a kid, Fairfield Township was one of the booming areas around the City of Cincinnati. With Jungle Jims bringing international attention to the area as one of the most unusual grocery stores in America, General Motors operating a parts plant off RT 4 and a number of other developments, Fairfield Township was the rising star of Ohio. I lived in neighboring Liberty Township and used to think the people who lived in Fairfield were rich and very lucky. Well, years of mismanagement and sheer stupidity have brought to the Township a promise of bankruptcy by 2018 unless the trustees put a 4.9 mill levy up to pay for their fire and police protection on the May 2015 ballot. Here are the numbers provided by the Journal News:
The problem stems from the fact that since 2012, the township has transferred more than $1.7 million from the general fund to the police and fire departments to cover budget shortfalls. Expenses have been outpacing revenues in both departments since 2011, Geis said. (Ken Geis,is the township’s interim administrator.)
Police expenses, including salaries and equipment, were just short of $3 million in 2013, while revenues were about $2.2 million. The fire department had similar figures in 2013, Geis said. The township transferred about $350,000 from the general fund in 2012 for the fire department, $1.1 million in 2013 for fire and police combined and about $300,000 so far this year for the police department.
The township’s finances are strong now, with a Aa2 bond rating from Moody’s, the second highest rating possible and an indicator of good credit risk, and a projected balance of nearly $4 million this year after expenses. However, that’s down from the 2011 balance of $6 million. Projected balances show the general fund gradually diminishing until it dips near or below $1 million in 2018.
The smart thing to do would be to restructure the contracts and staffing levels of the police and fire departments to reflect the declining community that Fairfield is. Let’s face it; Fairfield Township is not the best place to live anymore. It is mired with the same types of challenges that most big cities face with a demographic population overly dependent on government services as the more self-reliant types have picked up and moved on to places where people think more the way they do. It was easy to keep adding fire departments as part of a gigantic international labor union and expect massive wages for mostly sitting around all day doing nothing while Fairfield Township was experiencing its economic boom that lasted for several decades during the 60s through the 80s. It’s not like the roughly 18,000 residents around Fairfield Township were having houses burn down every day. There is the occasional arson case, the occasional pot bust, and domestic violence calls that come when you put stupid young people with no money and addictions to alcohol in conflict together near a bowling alley—but other than those issues, Fairfield Township is grossly overstaffed with police and fire department employees—and the trustees know that the fight to reduce those positions will likely be more unpopular than filing bankruptcy—which is just fine with the labor unions behind the police and fire departments. For instance, the Township in the fourth quarter of 2014 hired Lawrence Barbiere to replace Jack Grove as the township law director. Guess what, Grove was charging the township for his services–$315 per hour. Barbiere only charges $150 per hour. If the trustees look at their fire department and police payrolls they will see a lot of officers pushing over $100,000 per year with their overtime roll-overs. Those employees should be cut—or put on a RIF so that newer—cheaper employees could be implemented so not to force residents to vote for a tax increase. You can still have your police and fire departments sitting on the side of the road playing on the internet all day—but at least they’ll be there if some delusional drug addict has a bad drug bust or ends up burning down their home to collect insurance money so to pay off their gambling debts.
But of course the fire department will inflate their numeric needs because it must always be remembered; they are an international labor union first—servants of the local citizens second. Chief Matt Fruchey said this of the trustees decision for a tax increase in May—“I am very pleased that the trustees have aligned with our assessment of current and future needs of the township.” What that means is that Fruchey believes staffing levels need to be increased to some magic number consistent with the number of people living in the area. Increasingly Fairfield Township is filled with people like Barbara Holland who said to the Today’s Pulse newspaper that she’s not worried about her taxes, as her property is not of a great monetary value. “They’re (trustees) going to really have to get out there and push this….it’s the people with these big houses that are going to fight it.” So essentially what Barbara said is that she wants the services of the police and fire without paying for it, and wants wealth redistribution from those “big houses” to give her community resources that she isn’t equally contributing to.
It is that kind of mentality that tells the money to leave Fairfield Township because the trustees failed to protect them from people like Barbara Holland and Chief Matt Fruchey. Fruchey knows that his guys need a few more players in their Call of Duty network down at the firehouse, so he’s protecting their interests by exploiting the stupid in Fairfield Township. So guess what happens, the people in those big houses get up and leave Fairfield Township and move next door to Liberty and West Chester where personal wealth and property value is still appreciated somewhat leaving the community who just passed the high tax rates filled with people like Barbara, and without people in those big houses. Guess what happens to the revenue stream of a community when value leaves and poor value stays? The community dies.
Yet in a different newspaper Barbara Holland spoke a different note about the upcoming levy when the trustees split the vote on a May ballot or a November vote during a special Friday meeting on January 23rd. Suddenly Holland stated to the Enquirer that “I think you need to have another town meeting roundtable. Tonight was not informative. I’m going to be cutting something out if this goes through.” So in one paper Holland doesn’t care about the tax, the next she’s undecided. What is going on is that the trustees know they have to come up with more money to pay for the police and fire services and they don’t want the pain of lawsuits if they force staff reductions to balance the books. Wishy washy residents like Holland they need to speak out in favor of the levy to put peer pressure into the community to support the next levy—they just can’t decide when the best numbers will be that will work toward their advantage. These are the decisions of a declining community—because no matter what the trustees do, failure will follow. If they pass a tax increase more money will leave the township for friendlier districts. If they don’t pass the tax increase the international unions connected to the fire and police departments will put the screws down on the trustees in ways they aren’t equipped to deal with financially or emotionally. So either way, Fairfield Township loses and will further go down in value. There will become more residents like Barbara Holland demanding more taxes on properties of little value and less in those “big houses” who will pay a lot more just because people like Holland ended up voting for the increase.
The same struggles are coming to your front door dear reader. It’s just a matter of time.