Westerville City Council heard the first reading of legislation at its Jan. 19 meeting that would place a 2.6-mill fire levy on the May 4 ballot.

Westerville City Council heard the first reading of legislation at its Jan. 19 meeting that would place a 2.6-mill fire levy on the May 4 ballot.

If approved by voters, the levy would generate an estimated $2.8-million each year and would sustain the fire department's current level of service through 2016.

The levy would not fund new personnel or equipment, Fire Chief Bernie Ingles said.

The levy would cost residents $79.63 for every $100,000 in property valuation each year, said Dave O'Neil, spokesman for the Franklin County Auditor's Office.

Without the passage of a levy, Ingles said the department would see a $24,000 budget deficit in 2011, followed by a $3.3-million budget deficit in 2012.

Without a levy before 2016, the fire division would see a $19.3-million budget deficit at the end of that year, Ingles said.

Westerville voters last passed a fire levy in 2002. Projections at the time were that the 3.4-mill levy would fund the division of fire for six years, but Ingles said that money will last longer and will keep the department out of a budget hole through the end of this year.

The 3.4-mill levy currently is being collected at only 2.6 mills for residential properties, O'Neil said, and 3.1 mills for commercial and industrial properties.

In order to place a levy on the May 4 ballot, city council must approve a resolution and file it with the Franklin County Auditor's Office by Feb. 18.

Council currently plans to hear a second reading of the levy resolution at its Feb. 2 meeting before putting it up for a vote at its Feb. 16 meeting.