Transparency, taxes at center of fiscal officer race

The race for Clearcreek Twp. fiscal officer pits a two-term incumbent against a local business owner running for political office for the first time.

Donna Lynch, owner of Liberty Tax Service in Lebanon, is running against Linda Oda, two-term fiscal officer in the township surrounding Springboro, just south of the Warren-Montgomery county line.

Oda, also in her first term as Warren County recorder, produced court and state records indicating Lynch has or continues to face legal action over non-payment of taxes and business fees.

“When you are managing a budget of more than $10 million and paying the township’s taxes, you have to have the integrity to take care of your personal finances first,” Oda said in her response in the Dayton Daily News Voters Guide.

Rather than personal finances, Lynch, a member of Warren County’s GOP executive committee, said the legal issues stem from problems related to businesses she had to dissolve during a divorce.

“I did not know they existed,” Lynch said. “They’ve been taken care of.”

In October, Oda’s husband, Warren County Common Pleas Judge Donald Oda II, recused himself from three pending actions brought by the Ohio Department of Taxation against Lynch, according to court records.

Lynch said voters should elect her to bring about change in the township and the policies of township leaders.

“The same people are doing the same things,” she said.

The fiscal officer is responsible for managing the township’s budget and financial affairs. The job pays $28,176 a year. The winner is to take office April 1 and will serve a four-year term.

The township has about 16,000 people and staffs police and fire departments. The current operating budget is about $13 million, with another $12 million in reserve.

While Lynch said she would push for greater openness and accountability, Oda said she is responsible for township financial information being available for online review.

If re-elected, Oda said she would complete work on a transparency program, providing even more public access to the township government’s business.

“There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” she said.

If elected, Lynch said she would press for changes that would reduce taxes paid by residents to fund the township government.

“I see the township continuing to be a very desirable community to live in if the tax burden placed on property owners does not become more burdensome,” she said in a voters guide response.

Lynch said she got involved in township government in 2013 when the township sought an additional tax levy for fire protection.

“We just let the voters know the facts,” she said. She said she believed the township was planning to seek another fire levy in coming years. “I believe our township has more money than we need.”

Oda said she opposed the past levy and was unaware of any need or plan for an additional fire levy.

After taking office eight years ago, Oda raised questions that resulted in a special audit questioning Trustee Ed Wade’s involvement in administration of the township’s health insurance.

Her testimony helped Jack Chrisman, a township resident supporting Lynch in the fiscal officer race, win a lawsuit over the township’s violation of public meetings laws. The township was ordered to pay $200,000 in attorney fees.

Today Oda said she and Wade, both longtime local residents, are in accord due to their common interest in the township’s welfare.

“Having that strong foundation was able to push us past the things we disagreed on,” Oda said.

Lynch said her election would add an independent voice to a consensus in the township government leadership that was costing taxpayers, “instead of just getting along.”

“I intend to represent the taxpayers’ best interest,” she said.

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