Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Butler County tax hike could happen, but not without fight


Suburban Insider

Compiled by Cinci Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

If the Butler County commissioners enact a sales tax increase to cover operating costs next year, they'll have a familiar opponent in West Chester Township Trustee Catherine Stoker. Ms. Stoker, who earlier this year helped defeat the commissioners' attempt to enact a sales tax hike, says she's prepared to fight it again.

"At some point, they have to learn to live within their revenue," she said. "They spend and spend and spend and then look around and say, `We need more money. We'll have to raise taxes.'"

She helped lead a referendum effort early this year that caused the commissioners to rescind the half-percent sales tax increase they had enacted by a 2-1 vote. Most of the revenue from that increase would have funded major projects.

But Commissioner Courtney Combs, who voted against that sales tax proposal, said recently he would consider voting for a higher sales tax if the state cuts county funding more than expected and places Butler in a financial crisis. A 3-0 vote by the commissioners would mean a referendum couldn't go on the ballot for a year.

Terry Bridge, another leader of this year's sales-tax referendum effort, is taking a softer stance on another possible sales tax increase.

"I don't know if I would fight it," he said. "If it's necessary and we're not spending money on foolish things, I might stand back and let it go."

Steve Kemme

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Results stand: A Deerfield Township political action committee decided not to ask for a recount of the Nov. 5 vote after losing 50.64 percent to 49.36 percent, member Lee Speidel said. Friends for Five was behind Issue 18, which would have made Deerfield the first township in Ohio to have five trustees instead of three.

"The Friends for Five decided that it would not be possible to overturn the outcome with a 95-vote margin," Mr. Speidel says. "We are actually very pleased that with a last-minute effort right before the deadline and expenditures of only about $1,000 that a grass-roots effort got nearly 50 percent of the vote."

The group has not decided whether to try again next November, Mr. Speidel says.

Friends for Five will dissolve now that the election is over. However, the Deerfield Residents Community Action Committee - a group with similar membership that was formed at the same time - will continue to follow township issues.

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Cool Hand Paul: Paul Elliott, who helped keep a new YMCA facility out of Loveland's Phillips Park, took to quoting the film Cool Hand Luke last week as he confronted City Council members yet again.

"What we have here is a failure to communicate," said Mr. Elliott, protesting that the city is too eager to sell the historic White Pillars property along Ohio 48.

Council members were expected to approve a contract Tuesday that sets the selling price at $3.4 million so that Hines-Griffin Joint Venture and Parrott & Strawser can build houses, town houses and a 16-acre commercial development on the 75 acres surrounding White Pillars' colonial-style homestead.

Movies have inspired Mr. Elliott before. While fighting the YMCA proposal, he gloried in feeling like a Star Wars jedi, battler of evil.

Most recently, The Wizard of Oz started weighing on his mind.

"Don't pay any attention to the guy behind that curtain," said Mr. Elliott, while likening Loveland officials to mass manipulators.

What next? Don't tell us we're not in Kansas anymore.

Susan Vela

Tips and comments on Butler and Warren county politics may be relayed to Cindi Andrews via e-mail, candrews@enquirer.com; fax, 755-4150; or phone, 755-4157.




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