New Albany News

Plain Township considering fire levy on Nov. 4 ballot

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Plain Township trustees are trying to decide if a fire levy request is needed on the Nov. 4 ballot.

With David Ferguson absent, trustees Dave Olmstead and Tom Rybski reviewed financial information in a special meeting May 28 and learned that the township fire department likely will have a budget deficit in fiscal year 2016.

After reviewing figures provided by fire Chief John Hoovler, they said they wanted more detailed information before making a decision about a ballot issue.

Township Administrator Ben Collins said said said the fire department's expenses exceed its revenue. If the department uses its carryover balance to supplement revenue, he said, it will have used all of its carryover and will show a deficit by fiscal year 2016.

He said he could not give an estimate on the size of the projected deficit because trustees have not yet determined which expenses -- in equipment purchases and improvements -- would be included in the budget for the next five years.

To put a levy on the Nov. 4 ballot, Collins said, the trustees must pass a resolution of necessity for a levy and request that the Franklin County Auditor's Office certify the amount a levy would collect. After that, they could approve legislation to put the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The township would have to approve all the required legislation before the Aug. 6 deadline, Collins said.

The fire department currently collects 12.2 mills from voter-approved levies that generated $3,636,553 from residential and commercial properties in 2013, Collins said.

Projected expenses in Hoovler's report go from $5.6 million in fiscal year 2014 to $6.8 million in fiscal year 2019.

Hoovler's spreadsheet included capital improvements to the fire station on Johnstown Road, equipment purchases and hiring one new position in the five-year period.

His projections also included a 2.5-percent annual salary increase for firefighters and a 12-percent annual increase in health-care costs.

Hoovler included $125,000 in fiscal year 2015 to replace the roof on the fire station on Johnstown Road. That was one of the recommended building improvements from an assessment of the structure and systems at the fire station being completed by Kevin S. Hoffman Associates Architects of Columbus and Roger D. Fields and Associates of Columbus.

Hoovler said the assessment report would be done this week.

He said he would not include replacement costs for a ladder truck. The cost is estimated at $1.5 million.

Olmstead said the township is looking at ways to reduce the cost, possibly by purchasing a new chassis and adding the truck's equipment to it.

He said in the future, the township might also consider a capital-improvements bond issue to pay for a large expense, such as a ladder truck.

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