Gahanna voters will see a proposed property-tax levy on the March 17 ballot that, if approved, would support the Mifflin Township Division of Fire's capital needs for fire, EMS and rescue services.

Issue 17 is a 0.6-mill capital levy intended for the purchase and maintenance of firefighting apparatus and ambulances, fire stations and rescue and medical equipment.

The cost of the issue per $100,000 of home valuation would be about $21 annually.

Absentee voting, both in-person and by mail, began Feb. 19 for the March primary.

Melissa Rapp, Mifflin Township's public information officer, said the levy would also accomplish two other strategic goals: to extend the division's current 10-year operating levy by two additional years and to separate operating funds from capital funds in the future.

In the past, she said, all major assets, including fleet and facilities, were purchased using operating funds. Operating funds are primarily for firefighters' salaries and other expenses, Rapp said.

She said the proposed levy is the first capital-only levy in the history of the fire department and if approved could provide sufficient revenue to maintain the current fleet and facilities for decades.

"Most residents don't know how much a fire engine or ambulance costs and how often we need to replace them," said Frederick Kauser, the division's fire chief.

For example, he said, a new fire engine without any equipment costs about $600,000 and is replaced on average every eight to 10 years.

"We currently use funds that would normally be used to maintain staffing levels to purchase apparatus," Kauser said. "A dedicated capital fund will eliminate that practice and ensure our fleet is always up-to-date and available to provide life-saving services to our residents."

Touting the recent bond rating of AA+ from Standard & Poor's Global Ratings, the equivalent of an excellent credit rating for an individual, Mifflin Township administrator Nancy White said the township has always operated in a lean, efficient and fiscally responsible manner, even as Gahanna and the surrounding suburbs have grown.

"Public-safety equipment simply cannot fail," she said. "We are talking about critical community assets that the public expects to be properly maintained and replaced on schedule so that it's in good working order each and every time we get a call."

Mifflin Township serves approximately 36,800 residents in the city of Gahanna and more than 4,000 residents in the unincorporated township.

The fire division has four fire stations, employing 86 firefighter/paramedics, fire marshals, fire prevention and inspection officers and 16 full-time 911 dispatchers.

Mifflin Township firefighters responded to 12,455 calls for fire, EMS and rescue services in 2019.

The Mifflin Township Division of Police also has placed a levy on the ballot to be voted on only by residents living in the unincorporated portion of the township in northeast Columbus.

Issue 16 is a 3-mill capital levy to fund the police portion only of a new public-safety building in the unincorporated area.

If approved, the tax would cost an average homeowner in unincorporated Mifflin Township approximately $50 a year based on $50,000 of home valuation, Rapp said.