LFC Comments by Brian Massie, Lake County taxpayer
To comply with our ongoing mission for transparency in Lake County government, we filed a public records request with the Lake County Prosecutor’s office asking for the Crime Lab’s financial statements.
The Prosecutor, Mr. Charles Coulson, made compelling arguments in 2018 for a .4 mill property tax levy. Unfortunately, rather than request a 5 year timeframe on the levy, Mr. Coulson made the levy be “continuous”. That means that the Prosecutor never has to go back to the taxpayers since the levy will remain in place FOREVER!
We found the following article published by Fox 8 news on April 18, 2018. The levy passed and the increased annual revenue ($2,388,275) was realized in 2019.
Let’s look back to see if the increase in the property taxes was appropriate.
Please note Mr. Coulson’s statement on page 2:
“If the levy is passed, Coulson says it will sustain the lab for at least 15 years and allow it to grow.”
Interestingly, in his farewell speech, former Commissioner Ron Young stated that the two top priorities of government are:
- To Grow
- To Protect itself
Prosecutor Coulson has confirmed what former Commissioner Young stated. Government’s top priority is to GROW!
Let’s look at the financial statements we have compiled from the details provided from the Prosecutor and the Budget Director. The worksheet covers the annual results for 2017 – 2021 and the five months ended May 31, 2022. [Click on the arrow icon to reorient the worksheet]
In the years 2017 and 2018 the Crime Lab was spending more annually than revenue received and was running out of cash to operate. The .4 mill levy passed by the voters immediately solved their cash problem in 2019. In fact, the increased revenue from the taxpayers has permitted the Crime Lab to accumulate $6,677,252 as of May 31, 2022.
The Crime Lab is now receiving $4.2 million in annual revenue and is making $1.6 million in profit each year. A governmental entity does not refer to their excess revenue over expenses as profit, but that is what it really is. The $1.6 million in profit is 38% of their annual revenue. We would venture to say that there is no private business in Lake County that can match the Crime Lab’s ability to generate profit.
Let us illustrate another way that government continues to grow and protect itself.
Here is a letter from the State of Ohio’s Office of Criminal Justice Services.
The Federal Government’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) distributed money to the States, and OCJS started an application on behalf of the Crime Lab for $250,000 funding.
The following is the Crime Lab’s application for the $250,000 in ARPA funding.
Note what was stated in the application about their workload:
“The laboratory does not currently maintain a significant backlog of analysis requests; however, the DNA, Latent Print, and Trace Evidence/Fire Debris departments saw a significant decrease in the number of analysis requests from 2018 – 2021 and this decrease continues today.”
We spoke directly to the Crime Lab Director and was told that the local police departments are responsible for gathering evidence at a crime scene, but the Crime Lab will assist the local police departments only if requested.
It is Lobbyists for Citizens’ position that in light of the reduced workload, change in collection methods, and the excess property revenue of at least $1 million per year, the Lake County Budget Commission should determine if there should be a reduction in the .4 mill property tax levy for the Crime Lab, and the levy should be changed from “continuous” to a 5 year levy. It is very important that all political sub-divisions be transparent and accountable to the taxpayers.
We will be submitting this request to the Lake County Budget Commission, and will let our readers know what was decided.
Here is the email that we sent to the Lake County Budget Commission:
To the members of the Lake County Budget Commission:
We have done some research on the Crime Lab’s financial strength after the passage of the 2018 property tax levy. The levy was a .4 mill “continuous” levy.
Attached is a compiled financial statement comparing the years 2017 – 2021 and for the 5 months ended May 31, 2022. The revenue over expenses result in a cash surplus of ~$1.6 million each year. The Crime Lab has accumulated $6,577,252 in cash as of May 31, 2022.
It is quite obvious that the levy request of .4 mill is extracting too much property taxes from the Lake County taxpayers.
We, respectfully, ask that the Budget Commission reduce the millage so that at least $1 million is given back to the taxpayers. In addition, we ask that the “continuous” levy be replaced with a 5 year levy so that the Crime Lab must justify to the taxpayers their spending of the taxpayers money.
If we continue to stay on the path of ever-increasing property taxes, we will price seniors and those living on fixed incomes out of their homes that they have worked all their lives to achieve.
It would be greatly appreciated if we can receive your ruling in writing so that we may notify the Lake County taxpayers of your decision.
Lobbyists for Citizens
a 501 (c) (4) Non-Profit
Updated July 22, 2022
I went to the Lake County Commissioners’ meeting to discuss the excessive property taxes collected by the .4 mill, continuous levy passed by the voters in 2018. There will be a statutory Budget Commission meeting on August 1st at 10:00 am in the conference room adjacent to the Prosecutor’s office. LFC will be there to record the meeting.