By Amanda Ensinger
The Prairie Township Fire Department will be asking residents to support a permanent fire levy for the department this May.
At the recent board meeting, the trustees unanimously approved having a 3.61-mil permanent fire levy on the May ballot. This would increase the mils residents are paying from 16.6 mils to 20.21 mils.
“This will cost approximately $126 per year per $100,000 home,” said Tracy Hatmaker, Prairie Township administrator. “It would generate around $1 million a year for the fire department.”
According to Hatmaker, residents pay on average $486 per year per $100,000 home for the fire department. If the levy passes, residents would pay approximately $600 per year per $100,000 home for the department.
Administrators said the reason the fire department needs the additional revenue is due to inflation and limited revenue options.
“We take it very seriously when we have to ask for additional funding and do our best to stretch taxpayer money as far as possible,” Hatmaker said. “However, when property values are staying the same that limits our revenue growth. Occasionally we need to look at seeking additional revenue and this is what we are doing here.”
The last time the township asked for new mils was in 2005, however in 2010 the township approved a replacement levy. All the township’s levies are now permanent.
“The reason we do this is because it is difficult to plan expenses of a large organization when revenue sources aren’t predictable,” Hatmaker said. “We don’t want to have to say we have to renew a levy or we will have to close a fire station. We would rather ask for permanent levies and if the community is not willing to do it, we can plan differently.”
Hatmaker said the funds generated from the new levy would be used toward equipment and operating costs.
“We have equipment getting to the point where there is a lot of maintenance costs,” he said. “The tax revenue will also help with operating costs. Salaries are a big cost of the fire department too.”
In other news, the board approved spending up to $15,000 on carpeting and $25,000 on construction at Fire Station 241. In 2017, the fire department leadership asked the board to approve renovations at the station.
Fire department officials thought the changes were necessary to fully utilize the extra space they now have after contracting out their dispatching services. In 2017, the board approved paying Grove City $211,000 a year to provide dispatching services to the township and eliminating the township’s in-house dispatching services.
Some of the improvements to the stations will include a new space for an administrative assistant who will help oversee the Grove City dispatching, a renovated office for the officer who is the head of the unit for the day, an updated conference room, a new office for Prairie Township Fire Chief Chris Snyder and a women’s dorm for the female first responders.