Township officials mull over millage options for fire levy

By Amanda Ensinger
Staff Writer

Residents in Franklin Township will have to choose if they want continued fire and emergency service or if they are willing to sacrifice some of these services when they head to the polls this November.

“Right now, the county auditor is pulling numbers for us to determine how much different mileage amounts would generate for the department,” said Mark Potts, township administrator for Franklin Township.

The township trustees are considering anywhere from a 5.89 to 13-mill levy. Currently, the township’s 5.89-mill five-year timed levy will expire at the end of 2021. The township also has three other permanent levies, those are for 5.9-mill, 4.27-mill and 3.32-mill.

According to Franklin Township Fire Chief James Welch simply replacing the 5.89-mill levy would not be enough to sustain the current services offered by the department.

“We have laid out three options for the trustees to choose from with different millage amounts. To sustain the services we currently have, we would need to pass a 13-mill levy,” Welch said. “This option would allow us to have two engines and two medics, which is what we currently have.”

Option two would be a for 9.85-mill and result in the department keeping two fire engines and one medic. Option three would be a 5.89-mill levy and result in the department keeping one fire engine and two medics.

“We have 38 firefighters. With option one we can keep all our staff; with option two we would have to let go of six firefighters and with option three we would have to let go of nine firefighters,” Welch said. “This would impact our response rates and we would have to wait for neighboring fire departments to respond to calls if we couldn’t respond.”

If the levy fails altogether, the fire department would look at letting go of at least 15 firefighters. The department would also only run one engine and one medic and could close one of their firehouses.

Welch says the reason the department has to ask voters for more funds than they are currently receiving is due to state budget cuts, as well as inflation, staffing and operational expenses.

Franklin Township firefighters are paid $48,334 for their first year of service and $72,590 for three years or more of service. Welch is paid $99,257 a year and the assistant fire chief was paid $96,532 a year.

The assistant fire chief resigned, but according to Welch that money was allocated toward department expenses and didn’t greatly impact the budget.

“We are one of the lowest paid departments in Franklin County,” Welch said. “Our staff also went eight to nine years without raises.”

The township needs to submit all paperwork to add the proposed levy to the November ballot by early August.

This will be the second time the department has asked voters to approve a levy in 2020; the first levy attempt failed in the spring when the township asked voters to approve a 19.5-mill permanent levy for the fire department.

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