Jerome Township will ask again for fire levy on November ballot

SARAH SOLE
ssole@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

For the third time in the past year, Jerome Township will ask residents for a fire levy.

The township trustees on Aug. 4 unanimously approved a resolution to proceed with the renewal of a 2.9-mill levy from 2011 with the addition of 2.9 mills, effectively placing it on the November ballot, said fire Chief Douglas Stewart.

Township property owners pay a bit less than $183.73 annually per $100,000 of home valuation, Stewart said. If the levy were approved in November, it would add about $100 more per year to their tax bills, he said.

The 2.9-mill addition would generate just over $1.2 million annually, he said. Stewart said the 2011 levy would continue to collect at its effective rate of 2.09 mills if voters approve its renewal in November.

The fire department has only two other levies on the books, according to Stewart, and both are permanent levies. The first is a 2.3-mill levy approved in 1991 that now collects at an effective rate of approximately 0.66 mill, and the second is a 10 mill-levy approved in 1992 that now only collects at a rate of approximately 2.85 mills, he said.

The fire department’s total levy millage on the books generates $2,632,000 annually for the township, Stewart said.

Voters had rejected a 5.5-mill, five-year levy request last November and rejected a 3.5-mill, five-year request in April.

Stewart said he thinks voters might not see the fire department’s value.

Although the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks marked a cultural shift in which the public viewed police and fire departments with renewed appreciation, now many residents look down on paying taxes and might dislike police and fire personnel, he said.

“They don’t think they need us,” he said.

Stewart said additional funding is needed to pay for employees hired earlier this year as a result of a grant.

The fire department is to receive $1.6 million over three years to fund nine new jobs via a federal grant called SAFER, which stands for “staffing adequate fire and emergency response,” Stewart said.

The grant will reimburse the department for 75% of the salary and benefits for the new employees this year and in 2021, Stewart said. The third year, the department will be reimbursed for 35% of the salary and benefits for the new employees.

Stewart said he also needs funding to add part-time positions back to the department. Those positions are used to cover full-time staff members on vacation or out on sick leave to avoid overtime for other full-timers, he said.

As a result of the spring levy failure, the fire department eliminated its part-time positions, Stewart said. The department was approved for 12 part-time positions, and seven of these were filled, he said. He said he hopes to add six part-time positions if the November levy is approved.

The department has 26 full-time employees, he said.

This November levy only would cover personnel costs, Stewart said. It would not cover equipment needs or a new station proposed to be built near the Dublin City Schools’ new Abraham Depp Elementary School at 9105 Gardenia Drive in Jerome Village.

The Jerome department is responsible for providing fire and emergency-medical services for its own 30-square-mile township, as well as Mill Creek Township, for a total coverage area of 55 square miles, Stewart previously told ThisWeek. The contract Mill Creek pays for that extra coverage is $192,000.

The department’s coverage area includes the expanding Jerome Village residential development and commercial growth along Industrial Parkway, both of which have arrived in the past decade.

In 2010, U.S. census data indicated Jerome Township had a population of 7,541, Stewart said. For 2020, township leaders estimate the population could be approximately 12,000 residents, he said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah