2013-11-23 / Editorials & Letters

Dupler saves Walnut Township money

Editor:

Over the almost 12 years I’ve been a Walnut Township Trustee, the township has acquired 20-plus properties, some donated to the township and others purchased from private owners. Some (former Trustee) Ralph Zollinger and I purchased at sheriff’s sales, the last being purchased three years ago from private owners to be used as a parking lot at the Fairfield Beach baseball field.

All these lots were added to the existing property that Ralph, Ted Keller, and Paul Whitaker purchased to start a park at Fairfield Beach. They also leased a few lots from the Fairfield Beach Association for one dollar for 90 years.

So now the township owns 29 lots, all of which the township is paying property tax on, as well as park property at New Salem.

I always knew the township should not be paying property taxes, but never paid any attention as I thought the fiscal officer was handling that. About a year ago, I noticed a tax duplicate arrive in the mail. Why was the township getting a tax bill? The fiscal officer told me we paid property tax.

I contacted the Fairfield County Auditor who told me the township was paying property tax on all 30 Fairfield Beach lots, the New Salem Park, and 6.28 acres, but I could file for an exemption on all the park property.

I hunted for all the property deeds, bills of sale, and anything pertaining to the purchase of property. After finding what I could, I prevailed upon the county auditor’s office and records department for copies of deeds I couldn’t find. The auditor’s office helped me complete all the paperwork, and then sent it to the state for exemption. I was told this would take years; it didn’t.

Afterward, I looked for an exemption for the 6.28 acres. Zollinger, Whitaker, and Keller purchased the land from the Brison Estate Nov. 6, 1998. A smart move on their part, I feel.

This property was zoned commercial, which made the taxes excessive. The township leased the 6.28 acres to the new owner of the adjacent land for $500 per year, which was a good price in 1998, but not by today’s standard. The township’s property taxes were greater than the income, by far, which was still $500. I found out about four years ago the land owner leased his farm as well as the township’s 6.28 acres for $200 per acre, but still paid the township $500 per year-not a good deal for the township.

The trustees made a deal with the farmer (doing the farming) for $200 per acre, but the township paying $1,726.22 in taxes per year, so it’s still not a good deal.

My next step was to have the land rezoned from commercial to rural residential. This helped the taxes some, but the big savings came when I had the farmland put into CAUV (Current Agricultural Use Valuation). This dropped the taxes the township was paying from $1,726.22 in 2011 to $72.82 in 2012, which was paid in 2013. This was a savings of $1,653.40. In all this research I found that township property that’s not used for public uses, or is rented or leased to the township has to pay property taxes on it.

So, when it’s all said and done, with the exemption of the park property and 5.25 acres (adjusted from 6.28 acres), the township has a tax savings of $3,460.50 annually. To make the pot even sweeter, the township received a check Oct. 15 from the auditor for $5,003.93 for three years back taxes.

So what it all boils down to, a little work and not spending township funds excessively saved the township thousands of dollars. This is what I’ve spent 12 years trying to do.

Sonny Dupler
Walnut Township Trustee

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