Voters in the villages of Sunbury and Galena and Berkshire and Trenton townships overwhelmingly approved an increased levy Tuesday, May 2, that will fund an increased budget for the BST&G Joint Fire District.
According to unofficial election results from the Delaware County Board of Elections, with all precincts reporting, the levy was approved by a vote of 336 to 168, or about 67 percent in favor.
The new levy is expected to fund a station-remodeling project that will cost up to $500,000, as well as the purchase of two new fire trucks, which will cost at least $650,000 apiece, within the next few years.
Chief Jeff Wilson said the vote was a nice boost in confidence and reinforced the job his team is doing.
"I’m glad the residents in our district and taxpayers understand we’re doing what we can with what we’ve got and we needed a little help," he said.
The current 3-mill levy expires at the end of 2017; the increase adds an additional 1.85 mills for 4.85 total mills.
The fire department covers residents of Sunbury, Galena and Berkshire and Trenton townships, with its fire station located in Sunbury.
Delaware County Auditor George Kaitsa said the levy will cost residents of the four areas an additional $64.75 annually, amounting to $149.26 per $100,000 in property value beginning in 2018.
The new millage will bring in about $2.3 million per year for the department -- a significant increase over its current budget of about $1.3 million.
BST&G is almost entirely funded by the levy, with some “very small” contributions coming from agreements between the department and local municipalities, Wilson said.
In the months leading up to the vote, Wilson said fire district leaders stretched and saved in any way they could to show residents they don't spend unnecessarily.
With the new levy in place, he said he felt like that message was received.
"We’re trying to be good stewards with money," he said. "We’re looking down the road and trying not to come back to taxpayers with more and more and more.
"But with the growth in the area, we’ve got to make changes or be prepared to do that."