SIDNEY — During their regular meeting, Thursday, March 21, the Shelby County commissioners heard from the corporation of Shelby County historical societies, which is exploring the possibility of putting a property tax levy issue on the November 2019 ballot.
The corporation comprises the Shelby County Historical Society (SCHS) in Sidney and village societies in Fort Loramie, Jackson Center, Anna and Botkins. Tilda Phlipot, director of the SCHS, and volunteer board members Jim Rosengarten, of Fort Loramie, Kathy Eshelman, of Anna, and Greg Geis, of Botkins, discussed the need that each of their organizations has for general operating funds.
“It’s easy for (SCHS) to fund large projects, and it’s not easy for all the others. But things that come up day to day and surprises are hard to fund,” Phlipot said.
While each organization has been able to acquire and maintain — after a fashion — a building, none has sufficient funds left over for programming and artifact storage or restoration.
“We get enough money to keep the building open. After that, we’re shot,” Rosengarten said. “There really is a need. It would enable all the historicals to do more programs. We’re at the point where we’re spending it faster than we’re bringing it in.”
Phlipot noted that historical societies in most of the surrounding counties rely on revenue from property tax levies to stay afloat.
“The ones without a levy are dying,” she said. “It’s not to make us rich. It’s to maintain. We are the Smithsonian of our communities. History is no longer a tested subject in the schools. If we can’t afford to care for (historical artifacts), then our legacy is gone. If we don’t do that as a community, what our ancestors did disappears.”
Phlipot said it was lucky that Botkins residents rallied to save the former hotel that serves as the Botkins Historical Society’s museum.
“Ten of us stepped up and put $100,000 in the building. Now, we’re spending energy to raise money to pay the bills,” Geis said. The Jackson Center society is selling its building because it has no funds to care for it, Philipot said.
Commissioner Bob Guillozet agreed that there is a need for support; however, he added that other organizations, particularly the park department, also have informally discussed putting a levy on the ballot. Therefore, the commission could not give approval, Thursday. They requested more information.
“What kind of a campaign do you have planned?” Guillozet asked. “It’s going to have to be a detailed campaign. Every time we do a tax levy, it raises a lot of questions.”
Commissioner Tony Bornhorst asked the group to compile information including at what rate the levy would tax, how much money it would raise, how the money would be divided among the societies and what the societies would use it for.
“It would be for a quarter of a percent. That’s only $8.50 per $100,000. So about $20 per year,” said Eshelman. Phlipot said details about distribution were not final yet, but that probably all monies raised in each village would support the society in that village and monies raised in unincorporated areas of the county would go to SCHS.
“You don’t know what you have till it’s gone. If you don’t take care of your history, nobody else cares about your history. If you don’t take care of your town, nobody else cares for your town,” Phlipot said. “(The corporation of historical societies) can work together and care for the whole county.”
“Is it a worthwhile cause? You betcha,” Guillozet said.
In other business, Thursday, the commission:
• Got an update from County Prosecutor Tim Sell on action taken at the meeting of the Sidney-Shelby County Board of Health during its meeting, Wednesday, March 20.
• Welcomed Will London and Andrew Longberry, public affairs liaisons from the Ohio Treasurer’s Office, who were in town to make the acquaintance of the commissioners and offer their office’s services to the veterans services office and the Board of Developmental Disabilities.
• Approved payment of several routine bills.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.