Fire levy looks likely

By Sandi Latimer
Staff Writer

Jackson Township Trustees have taken another step toward seeking a fire levy to generate revenue to keep up with rising expenditures.

After receiving a report from the Franklin County Auditor’s office on what various levies would generate, trustees voted July 15 to seek information from the auditor on how much a 3.75-mil levy would produce.

After casting a 2-1 vote, dissenter Steve Bowshier said he is still not convinced that seeking more money from taxpayers is the answer and challenged his colleagues to bring cost-cutting suggestions to the next meeting, a special meeting set for July 29 at 7 p.m.

“Don’t rely on me,” Bowshier said. “All of us should bring something to the table.”
Trustees’ chair David Burris repeated his oft-stated view of financial responsibility when he said, “I don’t like to raise taxes, but I won’t cut personnel.”

The auditor’s report showed that a one-mil levy would raise $982,000, a two-mil levy would raise $1.96 million and a four-mil would raise $3.98 million, Fiscal Officer Ron Grossman told trustees.

“I’m recommending a 3.75-mil levy,” he said.

Grossman has projected a $400,000 deficit next year if no additional revenue is found. He has also projected between a $6 million and $10 million deficit by 2020.

He also said that raising $2.4 million would cover that deficit as well as paying for some deferred maintenance and other capital expenditures within the fire department.

Going along with Burris’ attitude of not wanting to tap the taxpayer’s wallet, Grossman suggested the issue could be divided into a bond issue and a tax levy. Burris nixed that idea, saying “You have to do a specific thing with the money from the bond issue.”

Among the capital improvements for the fire department are deferred maintenance projects such as roof repairs on Station 202 on Hoover Road, asphalt replacement, concrete apron work, and remodeling of all stations.

Three of the buildings are more than 20 years old and in need of some updating, said Chief Rick Dawson. He’d also like to have a new ladder truck, to replace the 2001 model for which he can’t get parts,

“We have to make parts and cobble things together,” he said.

It will take the auditor’s office several days to determine the amount of money to be raised from the proposed levy. If trustees want to have the issue before the voters in November, the question has to be in the Board of Elections office and stamped by Aug. 4. That’s why trustees set the next meeting for July 29.

The fiscal situation came to light when trustees were presented with a tax budget in July that showed revenues remaining steady in the coming years, yet expenditures continuing to rise. Dipping into reserve funds would soon deplete those funds.

The last time voters approved a levy for the fire department was in May 1991.

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