Plain Township trustees decided unanimously Wednesday to seek voter approval of a 2.5-mill new levy in November.

Plain Township trustees decided unanimously Wednesday to seek voter approval of a 2.5-mill new levy in November.

Township fiscal officer John Brandt delivered the trustees' resolution to the Franklin County Auditor's Office after the meeting, trustee Bud Zappitelli said.

Brandt said the auditor has 10 days to return the resolution to the trustees for a second vote. After the second vote, the resolution must be submitted to the Franklin County Board of Elections by Aug. 21.

The 2.5-mill levy is expected to generate about $1.63-million per year for the fire department. If approved, voters would pay an additional $76.56 per $100,000 of assessed property value, Zappitelli said.

During a recent community forum, fire Chief John Hoovler said the department was able to extend by three years a 2000 promise to stay off the ballot for five years, but if a new levy is not passed in November, the department will go into deficit spending in 2009.

Currently, three operating levies fund the Plain Township Fire Department: a 4-mill levy passed in 1983, a 3-mill levy from 1990 and a 2.7-mill levy passed in 2000.

Because state law mandates that millage amounts decrease as property values increase, the 4-mill levy is being collected at 1.1 mills, the 3-mill levy at 0.98 of a mill and the 2.7-mill levy at 1.9 mills. Slightly less than 4 mills of the voted 9.7 mills is being collected.

"We have the lowest voted millage and effective millage in Franklin County," Hoovler said.

The levy will be the first new levy since 2000, Zappitelli said.

"In 2000, when that fire levy was passed, the trustees promised not to ask for more funding for five years," he said. "We have been able to squeeze an additional three years out of that levy through prudent financial management."

The township also retired a 1-mill firehouse bond issue, which was paid off 10 years earlier than expected, he said.

He said Hoovler and Brandt have been good stewards of public funds.

Zappitelli said he realizes the timing in asking residents for more money is unfortunate, but trustees must make sure residents' emergencies are handled effectively.

"We simply cannot compromise the safety of the families in our community by delaying this request for funding," he said.

He pointed out that diesel fuel cost 79 cents per gallon in 2000, compared to more than $4.50 per gallon now.

"It is very difficult to plan in this inflationary environment we are living in today, but we are committed to making this levy, if passed, last at least until 2013," he said.

Hoovler and Jack Rupp, assistant fire chief, presented four levy options to trustees during a meeting late last month. Those options ranged from a 2.2-mill levy that would generate $1.4-million to a 2.9-mill levy that would raise $1.89-million.

Hoovler seemed to favor a 2.5-mill operating levy.

"A 2.2(-mill) levy would let us make it by in five years, but I'm more comfortable with 2.5 (mills)," he said.

Zappitelli said residents are encouraged to call him or fellow trustees Don Shoemaker or David Ferguson or attend future public meetings for additional information.

ThisWeek staff writer Jennifer Noblit contributed to this story.