SIDNEY — Representatives of five county historical societies and museums have announced a joint effort to place a .25 mill real estate tax levy on the Nov. 5 ballot to support their organizations beginning in 2020.
The Anna District Historical Society, the Botkins Historical Society, the Fort Loramie Historical Association, the Jackson Center Historical Society and the Shelby County Historical Society recently met with the county commissioners and requested them to authorize the levy. Each group submitted information requested by the commissioners supporting their need and planned use for the funds.
Local historian Rich Wallace is the levy coordinator.
“I think it was our county Bicentennial Celebration which prompted us to undertake this effort,” he related. “We know and love our past- but even we had underestimated the profound importance of our history. It is a legacy which spans more than 250 years from the days of Peter Loramie’s Trading Post (the first pioneer settlement in Ohio) to a thriving county community which has produced the likes of Nobel Medicine prize winner Paul Lauterbur of Sidney- the co-inventor of the MRI.”
Ohio law recognizes the importance of funding public history museums and other organizations which advance certain important public purposes identified in the law. The commissioners previously provided a limited amount of operating money under another provision of Ohio law, but that funding stopped a decade ago.
The historical groups have signed a revenue sharing agreement based on a formula suggested by the commissioners. The size of the levy — .25 mills — is the lowest provided by Ohio law. For the owner of a property appraised at $100,000, the levy will cost the taxpayer $8.75 a year. The levy will be in place for a limited term of five years but may be renewed by the voters.
Although the Shelby County Historical Society and the Fort Loramie Historical Association have existed for years, having been organized in 1946 and 1972 respectively, staying open without regular operating funds has always been a challenge for all five groups.
“Most years we struggle to have enough money to maintain sufficient heat in the Wilderness Trail Museum during the winter,” Fort Loramie’s Jim Rosengarten said recently. “I know the others have the same problems. We really have some priceless artifacts it would be great to preserve.”
The challenge at Anna and Botkins is the same.
Carol Carity of Anna said, “We have a great building in the Packer Historical Center, but we never know for certain what donations we might receive.” Greg Geis of Botkins observed, “We could do so much more to preserve the local history if we could count on some sustained funding to preserve our items or launch school programs.”
Jackson Center is in a stage of transition.
“We were given the former Masonic Temple Lodge building as our new museum. The structure also served as the Grace Lutheran Church,” Jackson Center volunteer Tom Woodruff said. “We have some outstanding artifacts from the Civil War and from Eddie and Milton Korn who were early aviation pioneers, but we have no funds to preserve them or even heat the building. We could be doing so much more.”
The Shelby County Historical Society located in Sidney is in a unique situation.
“We have an award-winning series of educational programs for school children throughout Shelby County and a staff of full and part time employees,” President Julie Gilardi said.. “We had set aside funds for future projects such as a history education center across the street from the Ross Historical Center but we have had to use some of those funds to pay for regular operations. Our history education programs are just too important to cut back.”
Wallace concluded, “I love the idea of groups from Anna, Botkins, Fort Loramie, Jackson Center and Sidney coming together for the common goal of preserving our historical legacy. Our theme of “Unite-Preserve-Educate” says it all. We have a great story to tell and we look forward to telling it.”
Information about the levy may also be obtained by visiting www.shelbyhistorymuseumslevy.com, the group’s Facebook page at Shelby County, Ohio museums or by contacting of any of the museum representatives.