Declaring "We're overspending in the fire department," Liberty Township Trustee Melanie Leneghan on March 26 told fellow trustees she supports renewing the department's levy at its current 6 mills.

Declaring "We're overspending in the fire department," Liberty Township Trustee Melanie Leneghan on March 26 told fellow trustees she supports renewing the department's levy at its current 6 mills.

Trustees Mary Carducci and Curt Sybert support Fire Chief Tim Jensen's recommendation that trustees replace the 6-mill levy expiring this year with a 6.75-mill, three-year fire levy.

Trustees took no vote on the levy, which is expected to appear on the November ballot.

"The decision is do (the residents) want to keep the current status of service levels?" Sybert said. "If you do, come out and vote. If you don't, let us know."

"I am opposed to increasing taxes right now," Leneghan said. "We can provide the same service for $6 million; will we have to make changes? Yes. Will we have to be creative? Yes. Will we have to cut staffing? Yes. I would go with renewal."

Leneghan said the township can make adjustments that should not affect the level of service.

"We have three full-time people on fire prevention. We don't need that," Leneghan said. "Twenty-four (hours) seven (days a week) we run seven (staff) out of one (station) and eight out of another (station), in addition to ... our ... chief, assistant chiefs, captains. They're all there. Our full-time guys could all get on a truck if they needed to."

Leneghan campaigned last fall on cutting spending. "I don't like it when elected officials say they're going in the office for one thing and they get there and do something different," she said. "It would be easy for me to go along with you and the whole department would love me and I could get my picture taken with them when I go for re-election, but right now I'm here to do what I said I was going to do and that was to use our money wisely."

"I worked too hard and too long to tear down this department," Sybert responded. "Making outlandish political statements running for office and getting elected off of them like you're going to cut taxes - who the hell ever does that in reality? I only promise one thing. You'll get the same services you had before. You're going to have the finest roads to drive on and the best EMS. I'll be out there campaigning with these (firefighters). That's how much I believe in it."

"With 6.75 mills, we're projecting a cash balance of $2.7 million in 2015 (when the new levy would expire)," said Mark Gerber, fiscal officer. "It would be fiscally irresponsible to try to run a cash-, labor- and capital-intensive business with a goal of having no cash in your pocket at the end of the year."

Gerber said a renewal levy would require closing one of the two fire stations.

Carducci said she doesn't want to see either fire station close because it would affect service to residents.

"The public can separate public jobs from the private sector," Sybert said. "They understand that Ford and GM issues have no relation to what goes on in a public sector. Why does anybody do what (the firefighters) do? Why do you train to be an EMT or police officer, when you're at the mercy of local government to ensure that you have a job? The public gets it historically; they support it."

The expiring levy brings in about $5.9 million yearly and is the department's primary funding source. It costs property owners about $143 per $100,000 of home value, or about $429 for a $300,000 home, documents from the meeting show.

The recommended three-year, 6.75-mill levy would bring in $8.65 million, and cost property owners about $207 per $100,000 of home value, or about $619 for a $300,000 home, documents from the meeting show.

The department has two fire stations, 52 full-time and 14 part-time uniformed personnel, a medical director and a part-time administrative assistant.