Voters in Orange Township will decide on a three-year, 7.8-mill fire levy in November.

Voters in Orange Township will decide on a three-year, 7.8-mill fire levy in November.

Township trustees May 21 voted 2-1, with Rob Quigley and Debbie Taranto in favor and Lisa Knapp opposed, to approve a resolution to have the Delaware County Board of Elections place the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The levy had been discussed for months, with only the length of the levy still to be decided. Quigley favored going for five years because that would take the cycle of the levy out of the same year that the firefighters union negotiates a contract with the township, he said.

"I'd like to move forward on a five-year levy," Quigley said. "I think that's something we should do."

However, Taranto and Knapp said they thought it should remain at three years as it has in the past.

"I do think that five years is a lot for the (fire) chief to budget out for," Taranto said.

Knapp, who favored a 7.4-mill levy, said, "We're asking for such a big levy. I would prefer the three years even if I don't agree to the rest of (the levy millage)."

After listening to the other two trustees, Quigley agreed to go with three years.

Collections on the current three-year, 5-mill levy expire at the end of this year. That levy raises about $5 million a year. The fire department has a $7 million operating budget this year and $921,000 for capital improvements. Carryover funds from a previous larger levy have helped to keep the fire department running, officials said.

The 7.8-mill levy would be a renewal of the existing 5 mills plus an increase of 2.8 mills, township legal counsel Mike McCarthy said during a break at the May 21 meeting.

The levy would cost residents about $242 a year per $100,000 of assessed property value. The levy is estimated to raise about $7.93 million a year. A 7.4-mill levy would raise about $7.5 million a year.

Taranto said if the levy is approved by voters and would generate $500,000 a year or more than expected, she would be open to reducing the levy.

The current three-year contract with the firefighters union expires at the end of the year. Fire Chief Tom Stewart said before the meeting that negotiations have not yet begun.

Top-scale firefighters make $63,000 annually and the township picks up their 10 percent of pension contributions. The township also picks up health-care premium costs for all employees.

Township investments

Trustees on May 21 also further discussed investment of township funds, which had been a topic at the May 7 meeting. Fiscal officer Joel Spitzer suggested at that time having three investment accounts, including a fire-levy investment account. That since has been altered. Quigley was not a part of the latest discussion because he left the May 21 meeting early because of a family emergency.

Stewart ruled out a fire-levy investment account. Both he and Knapp, who is the trustee liaison with the department, said no money is available to invest. It was proposed May 7 that $1.5 million be put in such an account.

The proposal now calls for having $4 million in a general-fund investment account, $500,000 in a motor-vehicle license tag account, $1.75 million in a parks-and-recreation fund account and $6 million in a permanent-improvements fund account.

The township earned only $7,000 in 2011 on interest from $19 million that was in a general interest-bearing account.

The latest proposal would put $12.25 million into certificates of deposit with varying maturation dates in accounts handled by Fifth Third Bank's securities department. The expectation is that such accounts could earn up to $200,000 annually in interest.

Other business

In other business at the May 21 meeting:

* Trustees approved moving forward on a feasibility study to look at improvements to the intersection of U.S. Route 23 and Orange Road. The area is plagued with traffic congestion and other problems, officials said. R.W. Armstrong and Associates will conduct the study at a cost of $69,478.

* Trustees requested the township zoning commission and board of zoning appeals to begin the process of looking into various amendments to the township zoning code, including creating a new zoning district for such things as assisted-living housing proposals. Currently, such proposals are handled as multifamily planned districts. That type of process has limitations that could be dealt with by creating a new zoning district.

* The township's inaugural Music in the Parks event will be held at 4 p.m. July 1 at North Orange Park. Student bands from Shanahan Middle School and Olentangy High School will perform.