Pickerington Area Taxpayers Alliance

Pickerington Area Taxpayers Alliance Newsletter

6-10-2001, May - June 2001 Newsletter Issue #5


One topic that many area residents have probably not heard enough about (partially because it is a fairly confusing subject) is the fact that the City of Pickerington is currently under significant debt.

By law, the combined governmental agencies for an area (County, Township, School District and City) can borrow up to 10 mills of the total property value in a particular area.
This debt is then paid by the taxes you pay to the City, etc. Those 10 mills of property values in the area are called “Inside 10 Mills.” What is a mill? Good question. A mill is one tenth of a penny. So if your house is worth $100,000, each 1 mill levy that is added costs you another $100. The good news is that without your say all governmental agencies can borrow on your behalf up to only 10 mills without your approval. So your $100,000 house can cost you only $1000 in property taxes that you do not have a say in. Above 10 mills other additional taxes, like school levies and other tax proposals on the ballot add to this total, but only with voter approval.

The point (and please forgive us if we get bogged down in this) is that the combined governmental entities have currently borrowed the equivalent of 9.9541 mills. Using the $100,000 property value example located within incorporated Pickerington boundaries:
 some of this money goes to Fairfield County ($193 to the County)
 some of it goes to the Township (about $10)
 the rest of the 9.95 mills (about 7.9191 mills – or $791) goes to the City.

These figures are based on the current Ten Mill Certificate available from both the City Finance Director and the County Auditors office. Again, this does not include the funds that you are paying in School District taxes.

The good news (and the bad news for that matter) is that the city is now bumping its head on the legal roof of this “Inside Millage.” Remember, the combined governmental agencies can’t go over the 10-mil limit, and right now those agencies are running with a combined 9.9541 mills. The City has bellied up to the taxation buffet for 79% of the total available. What this means is that basically, by law, the City has tapped the banks as much as they are legally able to, while limiting the financial capabilities of the other agencies. The good news is that the City can’t borrow much more without your approval. The bad news is that the City has effectively tied all governmental agencies hands behind their back in hitting this 10 mill ceiling. The County, the Township, the School District and the City are all now precluded from accessing funds inside the 10-mill cap for most types of project because the City has reached the debt limitation imposed by State Law.


It’s really not a bad thing that the City can be stopped from borrowing ad nauseam. The problem is that in order to dig itself out of this debt, the City needs to grow its tax base by annexing and developing more and more land. By doing this, there is more value in the land, more taxes coming in, and hopefully a reduction of the debt. To grow the community (particularly to grow an INDUSTRIAL/COMMERCIAL tax base) the City needs to either improve existing roads, or build new ones. Sewer and Water services need to be extended to new areas as well. This all costs money.

Based on the debt that the City has currently incurred, it will be difficult for the City to make these necessary improvements without either creating some magic. In the past (and currently) one of the forms of this magic is TIF’s (Tax Incremental Financing). This method takes income funds from one source, usually our schools, to fund infrastructure expenses. And who do you think gets to replace these needed funds to our schools?

The reason the City is in this financial bind is that it has for quite some time turned over all available (and annexed) land to residential homebuilders. Instead of building the absolutely necessary diversified tax base with a mix of commercial, industrial, retail, and residential properties, the city has allowed home after home to be built with no balancing industrial tax base. And remember that the City loses money on every house that is built. Our December 2000 PATA newsletter (see http://www.neighborhoodlink.com/org/pata for previous editions) detailed the fact that the cost of community services is roughly $1.10 for each tax dollar brought in on residential property.

What this means is that the current City Council is guilty of continuing a growth policy started by former Mayor Lee Gray, and perpetuated by current Mayor Randy Hughes, that is literally choking the City with debt. Not to mention what their TIF’s do to our schools.

To avoid exceeding the debt limit, to avoid an eventual financial situation that could very well call for additional taxes or special assessments, the City needs to catch its breath, come up with a solid comprehensive land use plan, and move forward in a well thought out manner. That would mean immediately putting the brakes on additional residential development within the city. It would mean cooperating with Violet Township and putting together a CEDA in which EVERYONE, the City, the Township, and most importantly the School District comes out a winner. The February edition of the PATA Newsletter talks more about development in the Pickerington area (again refer to our web site)

On June 19th, the City will hold a public hearing at 7:00, at City Hall in downtown Pickerington (100 Lockville Rd.). This hearing has been set up to discuss the annexation and zoning of the “Diley Property” along Diley Road.


The Diley property (245.5 acres) lies just 1½ miles from Rt. 33. The City has already applied for a State & Federal grant to widen Diley Road, and it feels that this request will be granted. The comprehensive land use plan, put together in 1993 by a more reasonable group of officials with strong input from the citizenry, slated a considerable amount of this property for commercial development. Why then, in 2001, is the city in such a rush to use this prime real estate to build more homes? This is a question that should be asked individually of each City Council member and Mayor Randy Hughes at the meeting on the 19th. It does not make logical sense, for a city with the considerable debt that Pickerington is suffering from, for that city to do the WRONG thing and authorize the building of 520 more houses. AND THIS SAYS NOTHING ABOUT WHAT THE CITY IS DOING TO OUR SCHOOLS BY ADDING ANOTHER 500+STUDENTS IN THE COMING YEARS.

Again that meeting time is noted below, just as the City advertised it in the Lancaster Eagle Gazette


Notice of Public Hearing

The Pickerington City Council will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m., June 19,
2001, at City Hall (100 Lockville Road Pickerington, OH) for open discussion on the proposed Preliminary Development Plan and rezoning from AG to PR4 for proposed annexation of 245.5 acres along Diley Rd. north of Busey Rd.

Details available from Municipal Clerk Lynda Yartin.

The membership of PATA urges all concerned community citizens to attend the hearing on the 19th to voice your strong concerns about the city’s choices of land use.

TEXT OF THE ZONING SECTION of the pre-annexation agreement appears on the next page for your information.

Additional Experts provide comments related to municipal debt.

Figures from Mr. Conley, Senior Principal of Seasongood and Mayer, a bonding firm used in much of Fairfield County, in providing many local governments financial analysis, indicate the following data:

Pickerington’s Cash Balances at year-end:
Year End Balance Percentage of Revenues

1997 $930,000 28%

1998 $750,000 22%

1999 $620,000 16%

In a Graphic representation this would appear as above: - NOTE - SEE THE "OUR PAGES" SECTION FOR THIS CITY FINANCILA STATUS GRAPH. It does not transpose into the Newletter section!

So the question bears asking – With our predominance of residential zoning and growth, are we following a predictable path of Costs for Community Services (COCS) outstripping our balance to finance this form of growth?

Mr. Conley states, “looking at the graph the financial conditions are on a down stroke and that if the 2000 year end cash balances are less than in 1999, it suggests the financial conditions of the city are weakening.” Mr. Conley also stated that “Operating expenses are beating out revenues.”

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Bob Harding Jeffrey Fix
Contact Person Newsletter Editor

PO Box 518 Phone 755-2464
Pickerington, OH 431247

Email – pickeringtontaxpayers@hotmail.com

Web – http://www.neighborhoodlink/com/org/pata


Recently a group called Citizens for a Strong Violet Township – Pickerington made a splash in the local press by recruiting some City leaders and members of the School Board to join their ranks. While this group clearly has friends in the press, and will continue to garner headlines and coverage, the membership of PATA wants all area residents to rest assured that PATA is the one making a difference, and your support is appreciated.

Since the beginning of this year, PATA has scored some major victories, and has pushed, pulled, cajoled, etc. local politicians into doing what’s right. Some examples:

 When asked by City of Pickerington residents, we jumped at the opportunity to assist in putting together a petition that would create a public referendum on the City’s automatic R-4 zoning law. Members of PATA were instrumental in getting 490 registered voters to sign this petition IN ONE DAY! The referendum was slated for the November ballot, and the City consequently repealed its own law. This was a big step forward for PATA and area residents.

 Recently the membership of PATA has been instrumental in working with developers in Violet Township to financially support the Pickerington Local School District. An example of this is the foundation that John Donley is putting together for the benefit of the local community, and in part the Pickerington Local School District. In a recent meeting with several members of the PATA organization, Mr. Donley suggested that he would rather provide seed money for such a foundation than to provide a one-time cash infusion for the School District. Mr. Donley added that this is something he has been considering for some time, and did not want to feel pressured into making a contribution just because he is building a new development. That being said, PATA asked Mr. Donley to continue the precedent established by Mr. David Ruma when he recently pledged a contribution directly to the School District in seeking approval for the Wellington Park development. Mr. Donley took that a step further with the pledge of $100,000 in start up money for this foundation, and a continuing presence in some leadership capacity as the foundation works to raise funds from area businesses and area land developers in the future. Mr. Donley suggested that a board be established including area leaders who would consider requests for grants for local community needs, including school system needs. The establishment of this foundation sets a new standard for developers both in Violet Township, and within the City of Pickerington.

 PATA has been instrumental in providing a fact-based information set about the recently adopted Cooperative Economic Development Agreement (CEDA) between Violet Township and Canal Winchester. While the City Officials, some on the School Board, and others were muddying the waters with innuendo and misinformation, the PATA newsletter, PATA web site, and presentations made by PATA members at public meetings have all been instrumental in convincing Township Trustees and Village Council members that the CEDA will be a positive growth vehicle for the area. Late May passage of the CEDA should be seen as a victory for all area residents. Diversified economic development will benefit all Violet Township residents, incorporated or unincorporated.

 The Ohio Legislature is currently considering Senate Bill 5, which is the “Annexation Reform” bill. This bill will provide a more level playing field for Cities and Townships in regard to land annexation. While the City of Pickerington has been adamant in their opposition to this bill, PATA has been behind the scenes, getting information to residents and informing them how to contact their elected officials. The recent House passage (81-16) of an amended Senate Bill #5, via one of the largest outcries of public input was significant to move the bill to passage. While this is amended bill is still in the works, local representatives are confident that Governor Taft will sign the bill into law later this year.

Here are specific excerpts on the Diley Pre-annexation Agreement.

TEXT OF THE ZONING SECTION of the pre-annexation agreement PROMISES the FOLLOWING:

3. Zoning. The property sought to be annexed currently has township zoning. Contemporaneously with the annexation, the City will rezone the Diley property to the "PR4" district within the City of Pickerington in general compliance with a Preliminary Development Plan prepared by Gary Schmidt dated the 5th day of April, 1999, entitled "Diley Road Land" (attached hereto and made a part hereof) with a maximum gross density of 2.3 units per acre. Though zoned "PR4", house sizes within the development will meet the "PR3" minimum house sizes (i.e. two story houses, 1800 sq feet minimum; one-story houses, 1400 sq feet minimum). The City understands it has 120 days after the matter has been approved by the County Commissioners and the transcript has been filed with the City Clerk to accept the annexation. At the request of Diley LLC, the City will hold off on the acceptance of the annexation until the zoning and water and sewer issues are settled to the satisfaction of Diley LLC. If for some reason the zoning cannot be accomplished and/or the zoning is referred or defeated for any reason, or water and sewer cannot be provided as set out herein, the City agrees that it will not annex the property at the request of Diley LLC. If the annexation vote occurs approving the annexation to the City of Pickerington, but a PR4 zoning is not adopted, or the water and sewer cannot or is not provided as set out herein, then within thirty (30) days of the date of the original annexation vote, the City agrees it will reconsider its vote and reject the annexation. If the annexation vote occurs annexing the property but the PR4 zoning does not occur or water or sewer cannot or is not provided as set out herein and more than thirty (30)days have lapsed since the annexation resolution or ordinance has passed, the City agrees it will cooperate and agree by ordinance to consent to a R.C.709.38 procedure at the request of Diley LLC, its successors or assigns.

It is clear in the language of the pre-annexation agreement, which appears to be quite binding, unless changed by council, that the city MUST ACT to rezone this property to PR-4 the way the developer wants it zoned or the landowner will not annex to the city.

PATA wonders what the public comments in these hearings can do to change this pre-annexation agreement, and subsequent annexation and rezoning when the agreement contains such binding language! Most comments to us are about the influx of hundreds of homes into our PLSD and the impact they will create on our property taxes in addition to the fact that this land was slated to be developed commercially in the city's master plan as recently as 1993 and it is very close to the new Hill/Diley interchange which is slated to be in construction next year.

It is interesting to note the following.
 The Attorney that has represented the City through the annexation process before the Fairfield County Commissioners, Richard Brahm, is now the same attorney representing the Developer, Dominion Homes.
 The Engineering Firm that represented the City regarding the capacity for well field expansion (and availability to provide water and sewer enlargements), R.D. Zande, is now the same Engineering Firm representing the Developer, Dominion Homes.

Burgess & Niple. Supplemental Report on Groundwater in the Pickerington Ponds Region - March 2001 states –
- “Based on these aquifer characteristics the aquifer is not as proficient in the area as previously considered. It will be difficult to identify new areas where potential well fields could be developed to supply large quantities of groundwater.”

R. D Zande & Associates, Inc. Evaluation of Diley Road Wellfield Expansion and Regional Hydrology Using Pump Tests – February 2001 states –
- “Examination of the hydrographs of MW-3, MW-4, and MW-6 (Metro Parks Sensor Wells #3, #4, & #6) found no significant water level change during the pump test that can be successfully used to support the hypothesis that Diley Road Wellfield pumpage affects the ground water around Pickerington Pond Metro Park.”

Conflict of interest??

When questioned only 3 out of 7 Council members indicated they had seen the Burgess & Niple report.

However, if the City Council is true to their charter and the fact that the elected officials work for the citizenry, public opinion must be stated and considered in these, as well as other issues.


Just a few notes from PATA Newsletter Recipients:

 “Thanks for all your hard work and for caring so much about our community.”
 “Great Job! Keep up the good work.”
 “As a (Public Official) I can fully understand your views and appreciate your efforts to inform residents of what is taking place.”
 “I love your newsletter! I have lived in Pickerington for almost 10 years and am wondering how much longer we will be able to stay here. The powers that be seem to think we are made of money with no limitations on taxation. I’m glad to see there are efforts to question their steamroller approach to government. Thanks for your efforts. Keep up the good work.”

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