LAGRANGE — Village Council gave township trustees what seemed like an ultimatum Monday night regarding the possible secession of the village from the township.
LaGrange Village Council President Gary Kincannon told the trustees that the village would like the township to pay the village’s share of the maintenance costs of the LaGrange Community Park and continue maintenance on the cemetery property that lies within the boundaries of the village.
“This is not an adversarial position,” Kincannon said. “This is just something we want our residents to recognize that their tax dollars to the township are being used for something for their benefit. It’s just that simple.
“If we can’t agree on these items, then we really have to move ahead forward (with exploring secession).”
Several members of the Village Council, along with Mayor Kim Strauss and village Fiscal Officer Kimberly Fallon, attended Monday night’s township trustees meeting.
The village has claimed that its residents pay about $60,000 of inside millage each year to the township, but the residents don’t see any benefits from those taxes. Township leaders have disputed the figures of how much inside millage village residents pay.
“If we did secede, what would happen is the village government wouldn’t get that money (the inside millage),” Kincannon said. “Our residents’ taxes would go down by that much money. It’s not that we’re trying to get more money into our coffers.”
In November, the township trustees attended a Village Council Committee of the Whole meeting in which the two sides discussed what would happen with the township fire and EMS services that both entities share. The sides discussed whether creating a fire district would be feasible or if having the township contract fire service to the village would be the better option.
Last month, village officials said they were putting secession talks on hold in hopes of working out some issues with the township.
“I’m somewhat confused. I was under the impression you guys were proceeding with secession,” Trustee Doug
Gardner said Monday night. “It kind of felt that you guys had made a decision and were moving ahead with that, and now you’re indicating that if conditions are met that’s going to be stopped, and if it’s not then it’s going to continue.
“What happens next year, or the year after or the year after that? This process has been started and this discussion has been initiated. I think it’s something we have to find some resolve to.”
Village officials also raised concerns about a change in how much money is needed to run the township’s fire department. Township officials say they may need to increase the current levy from 2.5 mills to 3.5 mills in order to improve services.
The trustees said the increase would fund the addition of a third shift for EMS and also would pay for future expenses, such as new turnout gear for firefighters, new radios, equipment and vehicles.
“As we continued to have our meetings as trustees regarding fire and EMS … it was going to take more money,” Gardner said. “That’s really the consideration we had toward everything. We want to try to expand the services for the community, and a 3.5-mill levy is really what it’s going to take to do that.”
Trustee Gary Burnett agreed.
“I, for one, don’t like paying more taxes,” he said. “I know nobody here loves them, but over 30 years at the same millage, even though every four years we got a little bump in raise, what’s really hurt is inflation.”
Kincannon said the village and township each pay $35,000 per year toward Community Park.
“We would like you to consider covering the entire $70,000 and continue providing a ‘summer help’ employee,” he said. “The village will keep its full-time park employee. We would both sign a contract with these details.”
Kincannon also estimated the cost of the cemetery maintenance around $10,000 a year. He said if the township picked up the estimated $45,000 in expenses, along with the cost of a part-time park employee in the summer, then the village would be willing to consider the rest of the inside millage a wash.
“I have some contention with some of the issues you have stated as far as what the village gets from the township,” Gardner said. “I don’t think it’s totally accurate to say you get nothing from the township, especially with the years of cooperative efforts that we’ve had and how things have moved forward.”
Gardner said the township would consider what the village had offered and would get back with them.
Assistant County Prosecutor Gerald Innes, who was in attendance at the meeting representing the township, said he hoped the two sides could work out their differences.
“I would hope we can work something out. For the last 25 years I have been going around telling everyone to use LaGrange Village and LaGrange Township as an example of two government entities working together to save expenses and save costs for both their residents,” Innes said. “I don’t have the hard numbers, but I just have to believe that in the long run splitting apart is going to cost both of your taxpayers. That’s just a gut feeling from me and my experience.”