Boston Township
expand | contract

Landmark meeting seeks solutions to
Boston Township’s financial crisis

NOTE: This article was published June 1995 originally and
the following article was published August 1995, and both
are reprinted with the permission of the West Side Leader.
By Amy Anderson

DOWNTOWN AKRON — A meeting held May 25 at the office of Summit County Executive Tim Davis was the first of its kind. The meeting, facilitated by State Rep. Karen Doty, was an attempt to seek solutions for the financially strapped Boston Township community.

Key participants in the meeting, along with Davis and Doty, were Boston Township Trustee Chariman Randy Bergdorf; Peninsula Village Mayor Jay Ruoff; Summit County Director of Public Information Lou Berroteran; John Debo and Tom Bradley, representing the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area (CVNRA) [now called the Cuyahoga Valley National Park]; Sandy McKew from the consulting firm of Pflum, Klausmeier & Gehrum (PKG); Mary Ellen Kimberlin, representing Summit County Engineer Paul Swanson; and Judy Shapiro, representing Congressman Tom Sawyer.

Doty described the meeting as a brainstorming session. The crisis clearly belongs to Boston, but as Bergdorf pointed out, when it comes to the front, the entire county will feel the impact.

The story begins with the 1977 inheritance of Roadway Trucking magnate Galen Roush that brought a $4.5 million windfall to the tiny community. The inheritance seemed to be an end to all the township’s problems, but in reality, it was only the beginning.

In 1978, the budget committee of Summit County Council voted to remove 6.69 mills of voter approved taxes for roads, bridge repair and maintenance. Boston Township would be losing $82,000 a year in taxes, and survival meant existing on the inheritance money.

The township was facing another loss, this time in the form of land and property taxes. At its inception, the CVNRA would eliminate less than 40 homes, but by 1977, more than 45 percent of the township’s land was in the hands of the federal government. By 1990, that figure had changed to 73 percent. CVNRA Superintendent John Debo says the P.I.L.O.T. (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) program was instituted in an attempt to wean the township from the loss of property taxes. At present, 75 cents per acre generates $7,508 for Summit County, while Boston Township realizes only $192.

With interest rates dropping, the township was headed for trouble. In 1990, it asked a task force, composed of members from the Cuyahoga Valley Communities Council, Peninsula Village, CVNRA, Cleveland Metro Parks and Boston Township, to hire a consulting firm to study the effects of the CVNRA on Boston Township and Peninsula Village. The consulting firm of PKG presented its findings in 1992, and a Peninsula/Boston Township Joint Fiscal Review Committee was formed to explore the problems.

Robert Kaczmarski, co-chairman of the committee, said the township was facing financial devastation. With a limited tax income and land acquisition efforts by the National Park Service (NPS), it was predicted that the township would reach its financial demise in 1996. This date has been extended to 1997. Kaczmarksi is quick to point out the financial doom was something that could have been prevented. With investment of the Roush inheritance, retention of the levy and retention of the tax base property, Boston Township would be sitting on $14 million.

But now the township must seek solutions in order to prevent bankruptcy. Through cutting back on expenditures and alternative funding sources, the township has managed to postpone the seemingly inevitable. Projects have been completed using State Issue II funds, Community Development Block Grants and CVNRA funding. Debo recalls the institution of the 1991 Road Assistance Program. One of two programs for road rehabilitation in the nation, the Road Assistance Program distributes $250,000 per year in the CVNRA. He says in the four years of the program, $850,000 has been distributed throughout the CVNRA, and $684,000 went to Boston and Peninsula.

One option currently under investigation is a merger between Boston Township and Peninsula Village. Due to current legislation, a merger would be at least 1-1/2 years away with voter approval. Doty said she would investigate the possibility of a legislation change to speed up the process.

A major stumbling block in a merger proposal is the 17 miles of county-maintained roads to the township. Kimberlin said at present there is no way the engineer’s office could maintain these roads in the event of a merger. Any assistance from the county would require a change in legislation. Should the township go bankrupt, the county has a legal obligation to maintain the roads at a usable standard. These funds would come out of the county general funds.

Davis said there was no precedent for a bankrupt township. “We don’t understand legally how we can help,” Davis said, and agreed to investigate what would happen if the county had to take over the township.

While Boston Township is in a crisis, Ruoff offered five reasons Peninsula Village is still financially viable: the 1 percent income tax, CVNRA road funding, State Issue II money, a 5.5-mill levy to fund the Valley Fire District and the fact that half the police department budget is paid for by Boston Township.

Ruoff said the village has not directly benefited from the Roush inheritance, but this was not necessarily true. Fire and rescue equipment, benefiting both governmental entities, has been purchased out of the Roush inheritance. By contracting with the township for police protection, Peninsula has been able to expand its department. Ruoff pointed out the village would have a major problem if the township did not pay for half the police budget. He also said a larger portion of the fire levy is paid for by the township due to its size. “If the township goes broke, we will be in a very difficult position.”

Debo pointed out the downside of the township going broke: dissolution of the fire district, loss of half of the police budget, loss of the cemetery board and loss of shared road department services such as grass mowing and salt purchasing.

McKew (PKG) said, “Everyone has done what they can to keep the ship afloat. The township has no predictability and no ability to plan for the future.” Several factors could change the outcome for the township: A merger with the village with $1 million of the inheritance money in the pot, township residents paying the 1 percent village income tax, a guarantee of road assistance from the NPS and continued maintenance of presently maintained county roads could make one financially viable community.

The group agreed to hold another meeting this month to present any findings. The next move clearly belongs to Doty and Davis. Perhaps Ruoff has the best reason for making a merger work when he lists everything that is shared by the township and the village.

“We are more than a township and a village, we are a community,” he said.

Boston Township seeks
financial solutions second time around

By Amy Anderson

BOSTON — The second meeting looking for solutions to financially strapped Boston Township was held Aug. 3 at the Summit County Executive’s office.

State Rep. Karen Doty scheduled the meeting after researching answers to questions raised at an earlier, first-of-its-kind May 25 meeting.

One option currently under study is a merger between the township and the Village of Peninsula. Doty had discussed the possibility of shortening the time required for a merger study between the township and the village. However, due to Summit County’s charter form of government, there is no way to circumvent the required year of study and final vote during the next scheduled general election, according to Doty.

With the existing legislation, the earliest date of a possible merger would be January 1997. Should [it] fail, the township and village would have to wait five years before the next attempt.

Upon researching the bankruptcy concept, Doty explained that there were no provisions in the state for a township going bankrupt.

“You may run out of money, but you can’t go bankrupt. You cut services, you cut pay, until there is no more,” Doty said.

Much of the discussion centered around two key issues: road maintenance and the proposed merger. Road maintenance, an area that continues to financially drain the township, is a problem with no easy solution. Paul Swanson, Summit County Engineer, attended the meeting and offered several possible ways to reduce the number of miles, currently approximately 13 miles of roadway, that the township is required to maintain.

The main roads — Hines Hill, Oak Hill, Stanford, Major and Stine — meet the criteria for becoming county-maintained roads. The smaller roads could then be maintained by a contractual agreement. Swanson said the township would have to petition county council to have the roads taken over by the county, but the offer would not be possible in the event of a merger with the village. Swanson was asked to give a per-mile estimate on road maintenance for the remainder of the township.

The group agreed to meet in the future as events progressed.