Southern Ohio village facing fiscal emergency

Village of Rutland facing fiscal emergency
Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 6:29 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The Village of Rutland has about 427 residents and its 170 households bring in about $102,000 to create a tax base.

However, village services including parks and recreation, civic center, and law enforcement cost much more altogether and town leaders are finding themselves in a bind.

“Absolutely, I knew what I was getting into,” said Mayor Tyler Eblin.

Right now, there’s no money to send police cruisers out into the streets. Leaders are having to pull back and make budget cuts after years of overspending.

“When my police force is running on a very thin budget and really we’ve went weeks without having police on our streets, it scares me,” he said.

Financially, the community is in a hole about $60,000 deep. The village is undergoing a state audit, which should be completed soon, but previous audits and disorganized bookkeeping are what set the village back and cost them thousands of dollars.

Because it’s against state code to be operating a municipality in a deficit, Rutland will likely be declared as a fiscal emergency.

“The Ohio auditor of state, is essentially going to dictate what we spend our money on,” he said.

WSAZ asked the mayor, how the community got to this point. He indicated it’s a compounded problem, exacerbated by previous embezzlement in 2014.

“Anytime you have poor, inadequate tax revenue, and you also have officials stealing money, that just makes everything ten times worse,” he said.

The community is typically served by a Village Marshal, but there are no funds to operate the Rutland Police Department. Other costs like fuel, maintenance, upkeep, and equipment only add-on to the problem.

“We’re looking at some volunteer police officers right now,” said Eblin. “The hardest thing I have to do is tell someone I can’t have police on your street because we don’t have enough.”

Right now, the village is being covered by the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office, but ultimately they’d like to get back to staffing their own community.

There’s also no public works department, so volunteers like Kyle Calendine, James Cline, and Brennan Smathers use their time and tools to repair what roads and sidewalks they can.

“When you get out here and you do this,” said one volunteer, “people see that and they see that people are willing to do that and make their community a better place and we’re hoping that other people will get involved and help out more.”

Mayor Eblin is considering proposing a one percent income tax to help make-up the needed revenue. Another option is to have voters decide on another levy, separate from an impending measure on the November ballot.

“Our police protection is our most important department, but it’s also our costliest,” he said. “I think that Rutland has enough going on, we need a police department here.”

They’re hoping through an increase in revenue they’ll be able to dig themselves out of the fiscal emergency.

The village will be holding a public informational meeting about the financial distress on October 25th at 7:00 p.m. at the Rutland Civic Center.

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