The Plain Township Fire Department's four-year budget shows a deficit in 2015, even with no additional personnel.

The Plain Township Fire Department's four-year budget shows a deficit in 2015, even with no additional personnel.

"We can't have a negative carryover at the end of 2015," Fire Chief John Hoovler told Plain Township trustees Jan. 18. "That will have to be corrected somehow."

Trustees requested the budget from Hoovler in November after he asked permission to purchase new equipment. They will review the budget as proposed Jan. 18 and consider its passage at a future meeting.

Hoovler's budget projects the fire department will end 2015 with a negative balance of $298,778.78. It allows for the purchase of a new car and a medic unit, new radios and some other equipment that has to be replaced regularly.

Hoovler said replacing one of the department's aging cars and a new medic unit are the top priorities. Any other capital expenditures would have to be prioritized after the department applies for grants and determines how much funding is available to assist the township.

Hoovler said the budget he prepared does not include the addition of battalion chiefs, which the township has talked about adding. Battalion chiefs are used to coordinate personnel on site during an emergency.

"Having battalion chiefs adds that layer of safety," Hoovler said.

Hoovler said he also would like to add permanent part-time positions to help cover the department's peak hours between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. New Albany's population triples during those hours when employees of some of the larger businesses are in the area.

The addition of battalion chiefs and the permanent part-time firefighters during peak hours, as well as the promotions of three new captains and lieutenants, would cost the township $111,000 in 2013, $151,000 in 2014 and $195,000 in 2015. Hoovler said those funds would pay for pension contributions and workers' compensation payments, as well.

Trustee David Ferguson asked Hoovler to report to trustees on other departments of a similar size that use battalion chiefs.

Hoovler's budget did include raises for fire department employees: 2-percent raises in 2012 and 2.5-percent raises in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The fire department collects money from four levies, which were passed in 1983, 1990, 2000 and 2008. All are permanent and are used for operating costs. Together, the total millage rates total 12.2 mills.

But Hoovler said the levies are no longer collected at that rate due to state rollbacks, which adjust the collection rate as new people move into a district. That ensures the fire department will collect the same amount of money approved by voters. He said the levies are collected residentially at 6.58 mills and commercially at 4.69 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.

Hoovler said the department will have to consider some type of levy by 2014 to prevent the projected deficit.

But, he said, the department does not want to compete with the New Albany-Plain Local School District, which could need to pass a bond issue before then, as well. The district is trying to determine how to handle potential growth on its campus, which already is at capacity in three of four buildings, according to school officials.

Trustee Dave Olmstead thanked Hoovler and the fire department personnel for their work on the budget and for being conservative in budget estimates.