Fire levy’s failure could mean layoffs, closed station
Orange Township may have to cut its fire department significantly after the Nov. 6 failure of the department’s operating levy.
The three-year, 7.8-mill fire levy lost by 6,913 votes, or 52 percent, to 6,440 votes, or 48 percent, according to final, unofficial results from the Delaware County Board of Elections.
The levy would have raised an estimated $7.93 million a year, costing homeowners around $240 annually per $100,000 in property value.
Township Trustee Debbie Taranto said she anticipates all the fire department’s part-timers will be laid off, as well as half of the full-timers, and that Station 362 on South Old State Road will be closed. All operations will be run out of Station 361 on Gooding Boulevard, she said.
“I believe what we asked for is what it takes to run the fire department,” Taranto said.
Trustee Rob Quigley said the vote puts the township in a “serious situation.”
“I hate taxes but I look at safety as very important,” he said, adding trustees will have to place another levy on the March ballot.
Taranto agreed that move will be necessary.
Trustee Lisa Knapp initially supported a 7.4-mill levy that would have raised about $7.5 million a year, while her fellow trustees supported the 7.8-mill levy.
Knapp later said although she did not support the larger levy, she does support the fire department and hoped voters would, too.
“It’s obvious we need to discuss an appropriate levy amount that the voters will be comfortable with,” she said.
Without a new levy, fire officials have estimated they have only $1.2 million to carry over into 2013. That carryover would allow the department to operate for three months.
After that, the department could not continue unless it found funding from another source, such as the township’s general fund, or made significant cuts.
In 2012, the fire department expects to spend about $6.8 million on operating costs, mostly salaries and benefits, and set aside another $1 million for capital costs, such as fire trucks. However, fire officials have not made significant vehicle purchases in several years.
Full-time firefighters earn $63,000 a year after four years. The township also pays for their health insurance and their portion of their pension pickup.
Orange Township and the firefighters’ union currently are in negotiations for a new, three-year contract. Under the last contract, firefighters received a total of 11 percent in raises over the life of the contract.
The department has 43 full-time and 17 part-time firefighters among a staff of about 67.