(Posted Oct. 26, 2023)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The city of London is asking for a 0.25 percent income tax increase for fire and EMS services. The issue appears on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.
The city’s previous attempt at an increase, which appeared on the May 2 ballot, failed by eight votes. At that time, the request was for a permanent increase. This time, the request is limited to a term of seven years.
“One of the reasons for the limit is that we have some pretty large housing projects in the queue right now. Income will go up with more people which would bring more money to the fire department. Hopefully, that will be enough to sustain us,” said London Fire/EMS Chief Todd Eades.
If passed, the increase would allow the department to maintain current staffing levels, current facilities, and current equipment. Eades said he has heard concerns from residents that the department plans to build a new facility.
“That is not anything that’s in the plans. We’re not thinking about that right now,” he said. “We’re just trying to maintain what we currently have. We have done renovations and maintenance that will keep us sustainable for the future. There are no plans for a new building.”
Currently, the fire/EMS department is funded by a 0.5 percent income tax and EMS billing. This year, the city has supplemented the department’s funding with $250,000 from the general fund to make the department whole. In 2021 and 2022, the city supplemented the department’s funding with federal CARES Act funding.
The current income tax will bring in an estimated $2.2 million this year. If passed, the 0.25 percent increase would bring in an estimated $1.1 million per year, bringing the total estimated income tax revenue for the department to $3.3 million per year based on current collections.
The levy is taxed on earned income only. It does not apply to pensions, Social Security, IRAs, interest bearing accounts, 401Ks, unemployment, or government assistance.
The department operates out of two stations staffed by a minimum of nine people per day and a maximum of 10 people per day between the two locations. The department provides fire and EMS service to the city of London and provides mutual aid to surrounding areas when needed. Year to date, the department has gone on over 2,055 runs, an average of seven runs per day. Their average response time is 4 minutes 13 seconds, from the time of the call to the time they arrive on scene, accounting for both local and mutual aid calls.
Eades said the department receives a lot of positive feedback for the work it does. He said he hopes that translates into support for the levy.
“It’s never a good time for a municipality to ask anybody for money, but we’re hoping the level of care and level of service we provide is enough that people support it,” he said.