By Dedra Cordle
There was much hand-wringing as officials in Jackson Township began preparing its 2020 budget. Though the monies in the general fund were considered stable, the funds that ran the fire department were estimated to be far lower than previous years.
“We were looking to make cuts with certain budget items, but we are not planning to make cuts to our personnel at this point,” said Fire Chief Randy Little at a budget hearing in 2020.
That hand-wringing, however, was loosened this year as they prepared the 2021 budget thanks in part to taxpayers who approved a 4-mill fire levy that runs for a term of five-years in November. But just because those hands have relaxed does not mean they plan to spend exorbitantly, said officials.
“The budget that was approved on Dec. 22 by the board of trustees is all about maintenance and being good stewards of taxpayer money,” said Shane Farnsworth, township administrator.
In the $22.5 million budget, the largest financial appropriations come at the fire department, which will spend approximately $15.2 million on salaries and benefits for its staff of more than 100. Those monies also include a board approved 3 percent cost-of-living raise and the hiring of new staff: the board approved a request to hire three full-time firefighters at its Jan. 5 trustees meeting due to impending retirements.
Money has been appropriated to pay off more than $1 million in equipment loans – Farnsworth said that was completed at the beginning of the year – and there are plans in the budget to purchase new station vehicles. There are also plans to have repairs and maintenance completed at each of the four fire stations at an estimated cost of $90,000.
The road department funds saw a reduction in revenue due to the delay in motor vehicle license tax collections but there are still plans to purchase new equipment through an Ohio EPA grant.
“We don’t exactly know when that grant is going to go through,” said Farnsworth, “but we will be able to replace several of our old dump trucks within the coming year.”
The budget also allows for resurfacing projects and minor road repairs throughout several subdivisions but Farnsworth said those roads have yet to be identified.
“We are working closely with the Franklin County Engineer’s Office to identify the streets that are in most need of repair.”
The 2021 budget also allows for upgrades to township parks: Tanglebrook Park is slated to receive repairs to its bike path and parking lot and have new playground equipment installed, while the park in the Emersonia subdivision will also receive new equipment.
“Not only was the playground equipment old, but we had to take out most of the fun stuff at the start of the pandemic last year,” said Farnsworth.
In other township news, the board selected Jim Rauck to serve as the chairman at its Jan. 5 meeting. It will be for a one-year term with Dave Burris serving as the vice-chair. Additionally, Rauck will serve as the fire department liaison, Burris the administrative liaison and Ron McClure as the road department liaison.