East Liverpool misses deadline to seek fire levy

LISBON – East Liverpool missed the filing deadline for placing a fire levy on the ballot for renewal, but the Columbiana County Prosecutor’s Office has been asked whether an exception can be made.

County Elections Board Director Adam Booth said he asked for a legal opinion after East Liverpool filed the levy resolution with the board on Aug. 8, one day after the deadline for placing issues on the Nov. 6 ballot.

East Liverpool City Council voted at its July 15 meeting to place the current 8-mill levy on the ballot, which runs for five years and was last renewed by voters in 2008. Booth said the day after the Aug. 7 filing deadline he received a call from Councilwoman Sherrie Curtis wondering why the levy was missing from a story about ballot issues that appeared in local newspapers, and she was told it was because no one ever filed the resolution with the board.

Booth said Curtis was under the impression a city official had already filed the resolution by the deadline, but he assured her that was not the case and told her it is the applicant’s responsibility to get the resolution to them.

Booth said Curtis told him someone would be over with the resolution, and Council Clerk Pat Scafide arrived later that day with the levy documentation.

“I told her that’s fine but that’s still no guarantee it’s going to get on the ballot until I run it past the prosecutor’s office,” Booth said.

According to Ohio law, election issue resolutions have to officially be filed with the county no later than 4 p.m. the 90th day before the election, which in this case was Aug. 7.

“I have no idea whether we can even put it on the ballot because the language in the law is pretty clear,” Booth said.

However, he was told by Assistant County Prosecutor Tad Herold about an Ohio Supreme Court case involving a Franklin County school board that also missed the filing deadline by one day. The court decided in favor of the school district, saying missing the deadline by one day did not create an undue burden on the elections board since it had yet to prepare the ballots for the upcoming election.

Booth said he does not know if it makes any difference but the case was decided under a section of law that applies to school issues and not the law setting deadlines for other ballot issues.

The elections board is scheduled to meet at 9:30 a.m. Friday in regular session, during which it is expected to take up the issue. Booth pointed out even if the levy failed to get on the ballot East Liverpool has two more chances to get it renewed by voters next year before collection would cease in 2015, because tax collections are always one year behind.

This is the second time in the past year East Liverpool had a problem with a ballot issue. Last year, voters passed a new street levy that East Liverpool officials expected would take effect immediately in 2013 but were surprised to learn afterwards the ballot language drafted by the city required collection to begin in 2014.