Fourteen Washington County villages, townships and corporations have been notified that they owe money to the state, due to a clerical error made four years ago that resulted in them being overpaid.
Amounts range from $98.68 for Liberty Township to $168,850 for Marietta.
The error was made in the Washington County Auditor's Office and means some municipalities within the county have not been allocated enough state funding over the last four years while others have been allocated too much.
Those that have received too much funding are being required to pay it back in the form of allocation cuts to occur over the next four years, while 16 communities will receive unexpected money.
Officials in already cash strapped townships and villages that are being required to pay money back say they simply can't afford it.
Auditor Bill McFarland described the mistake as a human clerical error. He explained that in 2007, the county's budget commission came up with a new formula for distributing state funds to the townships, villages, cities and county. The budget commission consists of the county auditor, the county prosecutor and the county treasurer.
Entities that owe money:
Adams Township: $7,413.64
Belpre Township: $7,624.48
Grandview Township: $6,018.70
Liberty Township: $98.68
Muskingum Township: $3,053.88
Newport Township: $4,354.03
Salem Township: $9,448.56
Waterford Township: $13,233.01
Watertown Township: $7,413.55
Lowell Village: $50,507.86
Lower Salem Village: $22,125.80
Macksburg Village: $22,566.55
Marietta Corporation: $168,850.25
Matamoras Village: $25,174.36
He noted that officials in 21 of the county's 22 townships, its five villages and two cities passed resolutions agreeing to the formulas, as did the county commissioners.
"What should have happened is in January 2008 the Excel spreadsheet should have been modified to reflect the new allocation of the new percentages as determined by the budget commission," McFarland said. "That did not happen, so from January 2008 to February 2012, people have been receiving distributions based on the percentage allocation that stretches back to before I got here in 2003."
McFarland said he discovered the error Feb. 27 while he was working on a project that involved reviewing past distributions. After meeting with other members of the budget commission and a representative from the state auditor's office, it was determined that since the mistake spanned a four-year period, it should be corrected in that same amount of time.
"We terribly, terribly regret the error and any difficulties it might cause," he said. "We are putting an additional step in the data entry process here in the future to best ensure the mistake can't happen again."
The Village of Lowell is being required to pay back $50,507.86. Officials there were already considering placing a tax levy before voters because of cuts in funding and have recently made reductions to the police force budget.
Lowell Mayor David Pitzer said he and some council members decided to make personal sacrifices after learning of the mistake made by the auditor's office with hopes of keeping the village from suffering the consequences.
"I forfeited my wage to compensate for the reduction in the general fund and other council members have forfeited their wages so we don't have to make cuts to other departments or the monies required to make repairs," Pitzer said.
Pitzer added that he thinks the corrective action was handled poorly.
"I don't understand how one can make an error then one can place a remedy for their error without consulting us to see how it would affect our budget," he said.
The City of Belpre will receive the largest sum of money, a total of $288,616.65. In an agreement reached by officials in the Village of Lowell and the City of Belpre, as well as the county's budget commission, Lowell will be given eight years to pay the money back and Belpre will not receive its total share until the year 2019. The two working together somewhat balances out the funds and gives Lowell lesser financial reductions.
Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz said he's regretful that not every entity is coming out ahead in the matter.
"I appreciate the fact it was caught and it will be an influx of revenue but we'll just adjust budgets," he said. "It'll have minimal impact other than the fact that it'll trickle back into where it belongs."
The township being required to pay back the most is Waterford Township, although township trustee Matthew Cavanaugh said he's not too concerned. The total to be paid back by the township is $13,233.01.
"Luckily we're financially fortunate in our township," Cavanaugh said. "The small townships I could see them being upset, but it was an honest mistake."
Adams Township will pay $7,413.64 and township trustee Wayne Isner said the impact will be felt.
"That's $7,000 worth of road and bridge material we won't be able to buy," he said. "When the county gives us a number that's the number we budget off of. We had no idea we were overpaid."