Delaware City Council on July 26 approved the third and final reading of an ordinance that will put on the Nov. 2 ballot a 0.3-percent income tax levy dedicated to the city fire department. If approved by voters, it would raise the overall income tax from 1.55 to 1.85 percent.

Delaware City Council on July 26 approved the third and final reading of an ordinance that will put on the Nov. 2 ballot a 0.3-percent income tax levy dedicated to the city fire department. If approved by voters, it would raise the overall income tax from 1.55 to 1.85 percent.

Council member Lisa Keller said the primary benefit would be to reduce response times in the city by adding a third fire station, allowing more coverage.

"This impacts everyone in the city regardless of where you live," Keller said. "Even if you live in an area right next to a fire station, if the people responding to you, the firefighters, if they're busy on a different call, you're going to wait.

"It does not impact only the people who live in places where we know it is going to take eight or nine minutes to get to you, in a best case scenario. It affects everywhere. We don't have enough firefighters to do the job we need them to do."

Mayor Gary Milner said council understands the levy might be rejected.

"Obviously there will be opposition to this from various areas," Milner said.

City resident Bob Hoffman criticized both the timing of the levy and the failure to make budget cuts to allow increasing the fire department's budget.

"I'm not in favor of an increase in income tax," Hoffman said. "We're in a recession. The reason our revenues are down is because the residents' income is down. To raise taxes at this time is not only irresponsible, it's idiotic, to be blunt.

"If you need my help, I'd be more than happy to help you cut the budget to find the money to fund this fire department and this police department. The money is there. You might have to make some cuts that just maybe are a bit uncomfortable but that is your job."

Fire chief John Donahue said the additional money would put the city near its goal of responding to 90 percent of all calls within four minutes.

"When we designed our comprehensive plan, our goal was to have every resident within four minutes of driving time 90 percent of the time," Donahue said. "Right now, if everybody is in station, we should be able to get there 57 percent of the time with our station configuration. In actual response, we're about 52 percent, 53 percent of the time. With our proposal for a third station, it should bring us up to 79 percent of the time."

Keller and Milner said that only voters, not council, could raise taxes.

"We are not raising anyone's taxes," Keller said. "We don't have that authority. We're providing the public the chance to go to the polls and tell us, is this something that is worth spending your hard-earned tax dollars on? The reality is, the answer may be no just as well as it may be yes. If it's yes, we have a firm plan about how we're going to be stewards of that taxpayer money so we can adequately provide fire protection to everyone in the city."

"In my opinion, it is up to our citizens," Milner said. "We can't raise the taxes. I think we owe it to our constituents to at least give them the option. As elected officials, if we don't allow them to make the decision, we're telling them we know better than they do. I'd like to give them a shot at it."

Council voted 6-1 to approve the ordinance, with council member Andrew Brush voting no.

"I made a campaign pledge when I ran for council in 2007 that I would not vote for any proposed tax levy," Brush said. "My vote this evening reflects that campaign pledge."