Liberty Township voters have just one chance in November to secure funding for local fire and emergency medical services in 2013, but township officials say they never wanted it to be that way.

Liberty Township voters have just one chance in November to secure funding for local fire and emergency medical services in 2013, but township officials say they never wanted it to be that way.

Trustees Curt Sybert and Mary Carducci, as well as township administrator Dave Anderson, said they would have preferred to see the issue on a summer 2012 ballot, leaving a second chance for voters in November if that issue failed.

But a planned June primary never materialized in the wake of a disagreement among state legislators over how best to configure new congressional districts. The summer primary would have been one of two primaries under the original plan, the first in March and the second in June.

In November of last year, lawmakers set the second primary date for June 12 after a compromise couldn't be reached.

But in December, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill that established 16 new congressional districts and wiped out the June primary altogether. Liberty Township wasn't ready to put an issue on the ballot in what ultimately became the state's sole primary for 2012, held in March.

The filing date to place an issue on the March ballot passed in December.

Another option was for the township to hold a special election in August just for the fire levy, but that would have cost about $30,000, said Fiscal Officer Mark Gerber.

"Our preference was June," Sybert said. "I really wanted to go out in the spring, but the problem was this legislative issue. My preference was never to wait until November."

The proposed June date was attractive because it gave the township more time to study the numbers and come up with the right millage to meet the fire department's needs for five years, Gerber said.

Trustee Melanie Leneghan, who opposes the levy, said the board should have planned to place a fire levy on the March ballot all along.

Leneghan was elected in November and joined the board in January.

"It never should have come to this," Leneghan said. "This is a total dereliction of duty. When your No. 1 responsibility is to get a levy on the ballot before it expires, you never wait until the 12th hour. It's totally irresponsible."

The current levy expires at the end of this year.

If the proposed five-year, 6.6-mill fire levy is voted down on the Nov. 6 ballot, the township's sole dedicated source of revenue for the fire department will dry up, and major layoffs will be inevitable, township leaders have said.

Earlier this year, Leneghan backed a plan to cut staffing and ask voters to renew the current levy without an increase in taxes.

With current staffing levels, expenditures outpaced revenue by more than $1 million in 2012, and the fire department's reserves are dwindling. The fire department hasn't asked for increased funding in nearly a decade.

Anderson said he and other officials couldn't have predicted the levy would face fierce opposition from a member of the board of trustees.

Fire levies historically have passed by wide margins in the township.

The last two levies, on the ballot in 2002 and 2007, enjoyed 2-to-1 margins of victory.

"No one here knew we had a trustee coming on that was going to attack our largest department like this," Anderson said. "Had we known that, we might have known early that we had to go out in March. But hindsight is 20-20."

Sybert said there's at least one upside to the November ballot date. Far more people than normal are expected to turn out to the polls for the general election featuring a presidential race, meaning more township residents ultimately will have a say in the fate of the local fire department.

If approved, the tax levy would replace a levy currently being collected at 4.64 mills.

The levy would generate $8.46 million per year and cost homeowners $202.43 annually for each $100,000 in home value. The current levy costs residents $143.17 yearly per $100,000 in home value.

The owner of a $300,000 home would pay about $15 more each month.