SIDNEY — Preserving Shelby County’s history for future generations is the goal of the local historical societies tax levy which will appear on the Tuesday, Nov. 5 General Election ballot.
The .25 mill property tax levy will benefit all historical societies in the county — the Shelby County Historical Society, Anna District Historical Society, Botkins Historical Society, Fort Loramie Historical Association and the Jackson Center Community Historical Society.
Museums for the county include the Ross Historical Center, Sidney, Jackson Center Community Historical Museum, Wilderness Trail Museum, Fort Loramie, The Shelby House, Botkins, and the Packer Historical Society, Anna.
The five-year levy, if approved, will generate approximately $289,000 per year. The owner of property valued $100,000 would pay $8.75 per year, or about 2 cents a day.
“This is the smallest levy you are allowed to put on the ballot,” said Rich Wallace, levy coordinator.
According to Wallace, the Shelby County Commissioners placed the levy on the ballot because “museums and historical societies don’t have the power to place a levy on the ballot.”
The process of placing the levy on the ballot began with discussions with the commissioners concerning why the historical societies felt they needed a tax levy and how the money would be spent.
After a series of meetings, the commissioners agreed to place the levy on the ballot.
“The levy will benefit all museums that free and open to the public. The museums are operated by the historical societies,” said Wallace. “We structured the levy so if any other part of the county wanted to open a museum, we’d reserve a place for them at the table.”
Wallace said Russia currently goes to the Versailles historical society’s museum, but he feels at some point in the future, the community might want to have its own museum.
“We know there will be a day when they’ll say ‘we have artifacts, we want our own museum.’ So there will be a seat at the table for them,” said Wallace. “They would share what’s already available (tax money).”
Funds generated from the levy, said Wallace, will be divided among the communities with a museum based on a formula created by the commissioners.
“The commissioners said go to the auditor’s office and find out the taxable property in each school district,” said Wallace.
That information was gathered for Anna, Botkins, Fort Loramie and Jackson Center, he said. If the levy passes, each community will receive percentage of the levy monies. The remainder of the levy money will go to the Shelby County Historical Society.
“We have a written agreement that signed by the historical societies,” said Wallace. “There’s a clause in it that if Russia or other communities want to come to the table they will receive a percentage of the assessed value of the readjusted values.”
Wallace said the Shelby County Historical Society has been around for many years. At times it was inactive but was re-established in 1993.
“At that time, we had no staff, no building, no employees and no artifacts,” said Wallace. “We want to help Anna, Botkins, Fort Loramie and Jackson Center get a leg up so they don’t have to go through the lean years like we (Shelby County Historical Society) did.”
A similar levy was voted down in 2012.
“I’m an optimist guy,” said Wallace. “I think the feedback we’ve received has been very good. We’ve got lots of signs up. We’re not running a stealth campaign of preferred voters. We want everybody to know our role in the county and in the bicentennial celebration. We’ve visited every household and delivered our message.”
Wallace said each of the four museums outside Sidney have artifacts that they are unable to protect because the buildings are not heated in the winter. Why no heat? Because the societies don’t have the funds to provide it.
“Fort Loramie has artifacts from the 1700s,” said Wallace. “They don’t have enough money to keep the heat over 40 degrees in the winter.
“Jackson Center has no money for utilities and they have a regimental Civil War battle flag in their museum,” he said. “The levy money will be used for the basics — heat, archive and catalog and a part-time curator. We want to make sure the artifacts don’t deteriorate and then be gone forever.”
Four of the five museums have no paid staff and no operating money for artifact acquisition or museum programming, he said.
The Shelby County Historical Society, said Wallace, was incorporated in 1946. It was inactive for several years before Wallace and Bill Ross brought new life to it in 1993. John Minton was part of organizing the historical society.
“The artifacts were stored in the library when it was still located in the Monumental Building,” said Wallace. “There were Gold Rush artifacts from 1848 to the 1990s.
“When we reorganized in 1993, we called the library about the artifacts and many had been thrown out, stolen or given away,” he said.
Wallace said all of the historical societies want to preserve the past for future generations.
“We want to make sure that there’s a next Tilda Phlipot, a next Jane Bailey to help save the artifacts,” said Wallace. “That’s why this levy is important.”
The county’s children receive local historical knowledge on the Civil War, early pioneers, immigration and other topics through classroom programs.
The local historical societies are incorporated into one group — the County-Wide Historical Alliance Inc. Each group has committed to a revenue sharing agreement. If approved, the levy proceeds will go into the county’s general fund and will be distributed by the Shelby County Auditor to the County-Wide Historical Alliance, which has a separate board of trustees.
If approved, collections from the levy will be available for the museums in 2020.
According to information provided by the levy committee, Clark and Logan counties have a similar tax levy for its museums.
For more information about the museums and tax levy, visit www.shelbyhistorymuseumlevy.com or Shelby County, Ohio History Museums on Facebook.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.