Hilliard Northwest News

Norwich Township

Trustees seek 4.12-mill fire levy on May primary ballot

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The Norwich Township trustees on Jan. 2 approved a resolution asking the Franklin County Board of Elections to place a 4.12-mill fire levy on the May 7 primary ballot.

The levy would generate $4 million annually and cost approximately $126 per year per $100,000 of assessed property value.

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

The levy would be effective Jan. 1, 2014, but collected for the 2013 tax year.

The 4.12-mill levy is the first fire levy Norwich Township has sought since local voters approved a 6-mill levy in 1998.

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 the 6-mill levy in 1998.

However, the cumulative effective millage being collected is 7.34 mills because of House Bill 920, which effectively freezes voted property millage at the dollar amount collected in the first year a levy goes into effect.

"If we didn't seek this levy, the fire fund would be exhausted by the end of 2013," Trustee Chairman Larry Earman said.

Earman said the township has demonstrated fiscal responsibility by extending the life of the current fire levy for 15 years.

He said the fire fund has operated at a deficit for the past several years while the township's cash reserve subsidized it, but the township must seek a levy to remain solvent.

The Norwich Township Fire Department has 86 personnel and its annual $12.5 million budget represents 80 percent of the township's overall budget of $15.75 million.

Trustees considered fire levies that would generate $3 million, $4 million or $5 million annually, ultimately choosing the middle ground. They said the millage required to generate $5 million might be too high for residents and feared an issue for $3 million would require the township to return to the ballot too soon for another levy.

The trustees said the new levy would provide solvency for at least seven years but still require the general fund to subsidize the fire fund toward the end of the levy cycle.

Trustees have openly discussed the need and intent to seek the levy since early last year. The resolution at the Jan. 2 meeting was the last and formal step to place the issue on the ballot.

In other action at the Jan. 2 meeting, Earman was re-elected as trustee chairman. Tim Roberts was named vice chairman.

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