FT residents to see fire levy

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Franklin Township residents have one more issue to look for on the ballot in November.

Trustees passed a resolution on July 24 to file with the Ohio Board of Elections to place a levy for the Franklin Township Fire Department on the November ballot. The levy amount approved will provide the township with $700,000 at 3.89-mills if passed.   

Fire Chief Richard Howard provided the trustees with a Certificate of Estimated Property Tax Millage Rates under the Ohio Revised Code from the Franklin County auditor, which also gave the millage amounts for options of $600,000 with 3.34-mills and $800,000 with 4.45-mills. Township officials thought the $700,000 with 3.89-mills will be easier for voters to handle and still provide the district with what it needs to maintain their services.

"We’ve been real frugal on what we’re spending our money on and begging, borrowing and stealing, and I think this would be an easier sell," said Howard.

According to Howard, the additional tax on a $100,000 home would be $119 per year, or slightly less than $10 a month. It would be collected through 2011.

"The thing here is keeping the basic services that we got for the township. That’s one of the reasons I’m looking at the $700,000 at 3.89-mills and paying less than $10 a month to maintain your services," said Howard.

Howard said the fire department is facing higher fuel costs and insurance costs. Also, costs to keep the medic supplies restocked are higher.

He also said the department has a 13- year-old fire truck that desperately needs replaced.

"If we wait till after 2009, there will be new requirements for emissions, new standards on the type of equipment and the way the truck is designed," said Howard.

Howard says the federal requirements will add $60,000 to the cost of a new fire truck.

According to Howard, an average fire truck costs $430,000 but more than likely the department would have to have the truck financed.

Another reason Howard said the fire department needs the money is due to House Bill 66, the Tangible Personal Property Tax Reimbursement program, which allows businesses not to have to pay taxes on tangible personal property, such as equipment, furniture, machinery and signs, and instead replaced it with a cap tax.

The cap tax requires businesses to pay a flat rate based on their receipts for doing business in the state of Ohio, instead of paying a percentage like businesses did with tangible personal property.

Howard said the idea behind the bill was to make doing business in Ohio more attractive.

The state is reimbursing fire departments and schools for phasing out this tax, although this reimbursement is being phased out as well. While schools have the option use income tax to replace the money, most fire departments do not.

By 2017, the state will have completely phased out their reimbursement to fire departments.

"This will cause the fire house to take a million dollar loss," said Howard.

Howard said if the department does not pass the levy, the department funding will last for a while.

"I did the budget with the numbers that we know, the things we’re trying to go on. If we don’t buy all the capital improvements, we’re looking at being in the black for two, maybe three years," said Howard.

Another issue is that if the levy does not pass, the township may have to approach voters again next year for money.

"We’ll be back with the voters next year. It’s like your own bank account, if you rob Peter to pay Paul, sooner or later you won’t have money to fund anybody," said Howard.

Board Chairman Tim Guyton was reluctant, but agreed the levy was necessary.

"I’m not for additional taxes, but I’m convinced that I’ll support it from this point and let the voters decide. Whatever the voters decide, we’ll manage from there and we’ll adapt accordingly," said Guyton.

The deadline to file for a levy is August 21 at 4 pm.

In other news, both the power and the backup generator at Fire Station 192 at 4100 Sullivant Ave. went out when the station was struck by lightning on July 21.

Trustee Don Cook said the starter does not work and the whole generator needs replaced.

Howard said it would be cheaper to buy a whole updated system rather than buy a part to fix the generator due to its age.

Currently the generator at station 192 is only able to run half the building, which poses a safety and health issue.

"Right now without a generator, we’re completely dead," said Howard. "We could be without power, no way to communicate with the outside world because the phones do not work, the dispatching does not work, the computers do not work. And we just got a block building out there that’s completely out of power."

Howard said the money the township would receive from the loss could be applied towards buying an upgraded generator system.   

Cook said the estimate he received from the insurance company shows the insurance would pay up to $13,580 to bring the fire station back to their pre-loss condition. To bring in an update to where there would be power on half of the building is a little over $3,000 a total of $16,525

"To do the other side, to put the whole building on generator, it would cost $20,100. And we would have to do the electrical work if we have somebody there. Or maybe we can get somebody there that can do some gas line work," said Cook.

Guyton said it is possible the township can collect more than $13,580 because of the associated expenses with replacing the generator.

The board passed a resolution for a new 40 watt generator to provide emergency backup to Station 192, not to exceed $23,100.

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