By Sandi Latimer
For the first time in more than two decades, the Jackson Township Fire Department has gone to the ballot seeking approval of a 3.75-mil operating levy that would raise funds to help the department’s operations.
Jackson Township trustees voted to put the issue on the ballot after a mid-summer tax budget showed the township’s funding holding steady while expenses continued to climb. For the past two years, money from the general fund had been given to the fire department for its operations.
After looking for alternatives to asking area residents to dig a little deeper into their pocketbooks, trustees finally decided on the tax levy. If approved, the fire department could perform some much delayed repairs at three of its four stations.
Besides repairs, the levy money would go toward personnel, supplies, services and the ability to build up a reserve balance for future needs. Having that reserve balance takes the pressure off the general fund and allows the township to fund other projects.
In recent weeks, township and fire leaders have been talking to residents about this levy.
Fire Chief Rick Dawson said he has found little opposition to the levy, which would produce about $3.75 million a year. For the owner of a house valued at $100,000, the cost would be another $131 a year in taxes.
“I haven’t heard any opponents, but I know they are out there,” said board chairman Dave Burris.
The additional taxes could hurt the older homeowners, acknowledged Scott Bowyer, president of the firefighters union, speaking about people living on retirement funds.
Voters have approved levies five times between November 1976 and May 1991, totaling 19 mils. However, the value of the levies declines over the years to where the value of those 19 mils has dropped to only 8.06 mils, producing $8.1 million this year for a department which has a budget of $10 million.
For the levy, a website and Facebook page have been set up so residents can get their questions answered. More than 200 people have ‘liked’ the Facebook page Yes on Issue 38, while numerous people have visited the website at www.yesonissue38.com.
In addition, mayors and councils in Grove City and Urbancrest have thrown their support behind the levy. Those are two communities that the fire department serves. Neither pays to support the department. However, TIF money from Grove City went toward construction of the station on Buckeye Parkway in the growing part of the township.
The department maintains four fire stations that are home to as many as 25 full-time and part-time firefighters a day. In addition to their firefighting duties, education, and training, they are working on the emergency medical units, inspecting buildings, flushing fire hydrants, and making public service appearances in schools and for community groups. They also install car seats, operate Safety Town, and at the holidays, participate in Firefighters for Kids program.