Norwich Township is poised to seek a fire levy on the May 2013 ballot.

Norwich Township is poised to seek a fire levy on the May 2013 ballot.

The levy would be the first on the ballot since voters approved a 6-mill fire levy in 1998.

"Not many fire departments can say they have gone 15 years between levies," Trustee Chairman Larry Earman said. "The fire department has done a great job managing the budget ... but operating costs increase."

The trustees must file a petition by Feb. 6, 2013, with the Franklin County Board of Elections for the issue to be placed in the ballot.

That amount of tax millage is yet to be determined, but the trustees are considering an annual amount between $3 million and $5 million.

"We're going forward with a levy. ... It's just the amount that is a question," Earman said.

Norwich Township and Hilliard residents currently pay about $215 a year per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Six Norwich Township fire levies totaling 16 mills already are on the books.

Local voters approved a 1-mill levy in 1973, a 2.1-mill levy in 1974, a 1-mill levy in 1976, a 1.9-mill levy in 1978, a 4-mill levy in 1989 and a 6-mill levy in 1998.

However, the cumulative effective millage being collected is 7.34 mills.

House Bill 920, which went into effect in 1976, effectively freezes voted property millage at the dollar amount collected in the first year a levy goes into effect. As property values increase, the law mandates the effective millage rates of most levies must decrease.

The recent plummet in property values, coupled with increases in operating costs, is the catalyst for seeking the levy.

"We need this levy because of the property devaluations," Earman said.

While trustees have yet to formally pass a resolution to place the issue on the ballot -- they said that won't happen until January 2013 -- the need for the levy is apparent, they said.

The trustees asked Norwich Township Fiscal Officer Jamie Miles to prepare several budget scenarios for 2013.

In December, trustees will consider capital-improvement projects and the operating costs of the township, including the cemetery and street department, for 2013.

The township's general fund is funded by a unchanging inside-millage rate of 1.5 mills derived from property tax.

Under all proposed tax levy scenarios, Norwich Township would borrow from the general fund to balance the fire fund.

"The question is how much we want to take from the general fund," Earman said.

He said a $3 million tax levy, resulting a ballot issue slightly in excess of 3 mills, would not be enough.

If a $3 million levy were approved, the township would need to transfer about $7.7 million from the general fund to the fire fund for its operations from 2013-17.

If a $4 million levy were approved, the township would need to subsidize the fire fund to the tune of $3.7 million.

A $5 million levy would make the fire fund nearly self-sufficient through the end of 2017. The township would need to transfer about $430,000 to the fire fund.

Earman said a $5 million levy, resulting in a 5- to 6-mill issue, would be the highest Norwich Township would seek.

A 5-mill levy would generate $4.87 million and cost an additional $153.15 annually per $100,000 of assessed property value.