Rocky Fork Enterprise

Township seeks 3-mill fire levy in November

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The Jefferson Township trustees on Aug. 4 voted unanimously to place a 3-mill fire levy on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Trustees chairman Mike Rowan said the township has a 2-mill levy that expires at the end of this year and a 1-mill levy that expires in 2015.

"Rather than put something on now and come back next year, we'll combine it," he said. "We won't increase it but keep it the same. The change is that it will be permanent, though it's called continuing."

By making the levy continuing, he said, the township wouldn't have to keep placing levy requests on the ballot for renewal.

The 2-mill levy expiring at the end of this year is collecting at an effective rate at 1.83 mills, Rowan said. The 1-mill levy that expires at the end of 2015 is collecting at 0.76 mill.

The two levies combined cost homeowners about $79 annually per $100,000 of assessed property value.

If the 3-mill levy is approved, those homeowners would pay a sum of about $128 in the first year -- $105 for the new levy and $23 for the unexpired levy. After the first year, the cost would drop to about $105 for only the new levy.

If approved, the levy would generate nearly $1.4 million in its first year for fire protection.

"We would have continuing money and won't have to go back to the voters on what they've already voted on," Rowan said. "We're trying to eliminate going to the residents over and over by taking two temporary and combining into one continuing, permanent levy. That will take us in the direction we're trying to go."

A proposed 2-mill levy failed by 66 votes May 6, with 1,100 (51.55 percent) voting against the fire levy and 1,034 (48.45 percent) voting for it.

If the 3-mill fire levy is approved, Rowan said, the fire department wouldn't need to go back on the ballot until 2017, when another temporary levy is set to expire.

Rowan said the levy would help the fire department address several immediate needs, including the purchase of a new fire engine.

He said the department's current engine has more than 100,000 miles on it.

"It's out of service for repairs (more often) than really is acceptable," he said. "When running emergency service operations, you can't have it out."

Rowan said the department also has an ambulance with 96,000 miles that needs replaced.

Following the failure of the May levy request, Fire Chief Crystal Dickerson said, the department's ladder truck was placed out of service indefinitely. The replacement of the 2003 ambulance also was postponed. Staffing was reduced to five firefighters.

Rowan said the township is in the middle of a performance audit by the state auditor's office.

"We look forward to getting the results to see if there are any areas of the township we can be more efficient, anywhere we can save money or cut our expenses before we go to the residents and ask for any increase in taxes," he said. "We want to make sure we're doing everything we can to run the township efficiently."

He said the audit results should be available by the end of the summer.

The department serves about 11,000 residents within approximately 14 square miles and includes parts of Reynoldsburg, Gahanna and Columbus.

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