Although voters rejected Jerome Township's fire levy request Nov. 5, fire department Chief Doug Stewart said township officials eventually will have to pursue another ballot issue request to continue operations and address the growth of the Jerome Township Fire Department.
The revenue the department receives annually, he said, is not enough to sustain the department into the future.
"There's no way around it," Stewart said.
According to final, unofficial final results from the Union County Board of Elections, the 5.5-mill, five-year fire levy failed, 1,012 votes (55.39%) to 815 votes (44.61%).
A property owner would have paid an additional $192.50 per $100,000 of home valuation per year.
The levy would have generated about $1.9 million in tax revenue annually, said Robert Caldwell, the township's fiscal officer.
The levy was proposed to raise funds to increase staffing at the station at 9689 U.S. Route 42 and add additional firefighters at a second station, Stewart said.
Part of the establishment of Nationwide Realty Investors' Jerome Village development included an agreement to donate land within the residential development for a fire station and $5.5 million to build and equip it, Stewart said.
The second station was proposed to be built near the Dublin City Schools' new Abraham Depp Elementary School, which is under construction at the northwest corner of Hyland-Croy Road and Ravenhill Parkway.
Stewart said the failed levy was lower than the original proposed request of a 6.6-mill levy.
He said he hopes the township could return to voters with another levy in March 2020 but said he will have to meet with township board of trustees and coordinate with the township fiscal officer and the Union County Auditor.
Fire service, Stewart said, is part of infrastructure that should be prepared before growth occurs. The township already should have a second station, he said.
The fire service response time in New California is about one minute because of the proximity to the township's sole station.
Response times in the northeast side of the township in Jerome Village and Tartan Fields areas exceed 12 to 13 minutes, Stewart said.
The last fire levy was approved in 2011 at 2.9 mills, Stewart said, and renewed in 2016. That levy is now collecting at 2.33 mills and generates $834,000 annually, he said. It expires and has to be renewed or replaced every five years. It's up for renewal or replacement in 2021.
The fire department also has two continuing levies from 1991 and 1992, Stewart said.
A 1991 levy originally set at 2.9 mills is collecting at 0.74 mill now and generates approximately $299,816 annually, he said. The 1992 levy originally was set at 10 mills and collects at 3.2 mills now, generating $1,303,549 annually.
The fire district also collects money annually from a combination of state funding, emergency medical service billing and contracts for fire and emergency medical services from neighboring townships, Stewart said.
The total amount fluctuates every year, but this year the budgeted amount from those funding sources is about $519,000.
Township trustee Ron Rhodes said requesting another levy would be up to the township's new administration. Megan Sloat was elected to Rhodes' seat on the board. He chose not to seek reelection.
The levy shot down Nov. 5 would have been a significant increase, he said, adding, "I'm a little disappointed, but I'm not totally surprised."
Sloat said she was concerned the levy failed.
"Due to the increased response times we have now, it is critical to have staffing for a second fire station in our township," she said.
Sloat said she'd like to see another fire levy on the ballot this spring.
"We need to work towards finding a millage the voters are more comfortable with, but still provide as much funding as possible to our fire and EMS services," she said.
"We cannot continue to operate with one fire station serving this growing area."
Trustee Joe Craft said he was disappointed the fire levy failed.
"I'd like to better understand why the folks that voted 'no' did vote 'no' so I'll know what direction to go," he said.
Trustee CJ Lovejoy didn't respond to calls requesting comment.
Stewart said he understands no one wants to pay more taxes. Still, the department provides life-saving services.
"You might not need us today, but you never know when you're going to need us," he said.
In other Nov. 5 election results, Sloat defeated Ken Gordon and Mark Spagnuolo for the trustee seat held by Rhodes.
According to final unofficial results from the Union County Board of Elections, Sloat led the field with 899 votes (47.67%); Gordon had 551 (29.22%); and Spagnuolo had 436 (23.12%).
In the Dublin City Council race for at-large seats, Christina Alutto and Chris Amorose Groomes, both incumbents, and Andrew Keeler were elected.
According to final, unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections, Alutto received 4,591 votes (24%); Groomes had 4,590 (24%); and Keeler had 3,907 (20%). Sandi Allen had 3,152 votes (16%) and Ajay Satyapriya had 2,999 (16%).
There also were several unopposed races. They included Dublin school board members Scott Melody and Christopher Valentine; Jerome Township fiscal officer Robert Caldwell; and Washington Township fiscal officer Joyce Robinson.
Jan Rozanski also ran unopposed for Washington Township trustee; Gene Bostic did not seek reelection.