The Mifflin Township Division of Fire will fund its services to residents in a different way, thanks to voter approval of a proposed property-tax levy.
Unofficial results released on April 29 from the Franklin County Board of Elections show Mifflin Township Fire’s issue passing 4,306 votes to 2,325 votes, or 64.94% to 35.06%.
Mailed-in ballots postmarked by April 27 and received by May 8 will be counted with the official results, according to Aaron Sellers, Franklin County Board of Elections spokesman. He said election results must be certified by May 19.
Fire Chief Frederick Kauser said he’s grateful for all the voters, especially considering what the community has experienced during the pandemic.
“It’s really a testament to the confidence and trust the citizens have in us, especially during this time,” he said.
Kauser said the levy’s approval will buy two more years for an operating levy while supporting apparatus and keeping the division on a replacement schedule.
“It will advance the fire department in terms of our budgeting processes,” he said. “That’s going to be a great relief and better way to operate in the future.”
Issue 17 is a transition from the fire department generally purchasing fire apparatus and ambulances, and making building modifications using operating funds, to a budget system in which all capital expenses will be managed separately, Kauser said.
The 0.6-mill capital levy will provide funds to purchase and maintain firefighting apparatus, ambulances and lifesaving rescue and medical equipment, as well as keep fire stations in shape.
It will cost $21 annually per $100,000 home valuation and raise about $600,000 annually.
Melissa Rapp, the township’s public-information officer, said the levy will help extend the current 10-year operating levy by two additional years and separate operating funds from capital funds in the future.
In the past, she said, all major assets, including fleet and facilities, were purchasing using operating funds.
Operating funds are primarily for firefighters’ salaries and other expenses, Rapp said
Like other local governments, Mifflin Fire has cut spending this year, Kauser said.
“We’re working on emergency purchasing only,” he said. “We recognize that businesses are closed in our city and that citizens are unemployed, so we have suspended our spending and we’re basically waiting for the economy to recover. We’re making adjustments and cuts where appropriate to maintain services.”
There is a replacement schedule for fire apparatus, but because discretionary spending is on hold, so are these projects, Kauser said. The levy would not begin to be collected until 2021, so at this point the division will hold off until it sees how economic forces will affect the budget, he said.
Kauser said it’s hard to celebrate the levy win, but it’s also hard not to.
He said he’s grateful for the levy passage in order to support citizens through the fire department, as everyone faces tough economic times.
“Our paramedics have been working tirelessly,” Kauser said. “They have, like all of us, had to accommodate a new way of delivering care. They’ve been exposed to the virus as part of their everyday work. We’ve been extra cautious, keeping them healthy and safe and the fire stations clean.
“Fire departments don’t have housekeeping. Firemen do that work. They’re working a lot harder to keep our facilities clean so we don’t have an outbreak. We’re concerned about them and their families.”
Voters also appear to have approved a 3-mill capital levy to fund the Mifflin Township Division of Police sought to fund the police portion only of a new public-safety building in the unincorporated area.
Unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections show the issue passing 110 votes to 99 votes, or 52.63 % to 47.37%.
That levy, Issue 16, was voted on only by residents living in the unincorporated portion of the township in northeast Columbus.
The tax will cost an average homeowner in unincorporated Mifflin Township about $50 a year, based on $50,000 of home valuation, Rapp said.
Replacement of the combined police and fire station in the unincorporated area will move forward as planned, although the construction deadlines are dependent upon how businesses and other entities reopen in Ohio, Rapp said.
Officials expect to occupy the new facility at 2459 Agler Road in 2021. The current fire station at 2459 Agler Road was originally built more than 50 years ago and the police station at 2455 Agler Road, behind the fire station, was originally a community center, and does not meet today’s standards for public-service facilities, Rapp said.
The primary election was delayed from March 17 because of the pandemic and was done by absentee or early in-person voting or by voters dropping off ballots at county boards by 7:30 p.m. April 28.