(Posted Oct. 12, 2023)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The Tri-County Joint Fire District has placed an additional 1.5-mill property tax levy for five years for current expenses on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.
If passed, the levy would generate an additional $316,000 per year. The cost to the taxpayer would be $53 per year per $100,000 of property valuation.
Chief Dave Taylor said the main reasons for the levy request are increased call volumes and increased personnel costs.
In 2013, the district had 307 calls. In 2022, that number was 508, a record high. This year, the district is on pace to log 10 percent more calls than last year.
“I don’t see these numbers going down. I anticipate they will keep going up,” Taylor said. “We’re seeing growth in Mount Sterling with new housing developments.”
In 2013, the district’s personnel costs were $18,320. By 2022, those costs were $157,470. Taylor estimates personnel costs for 2023 will be $250,000. The increases are the result of higher call volumes and an ever-decreasing number of volunteer firefighters.
“Due to the lack of volunteers, we’re forced to hire part-time employees,” Taylor said. “We’re down to four volunteers. At one time, years ago, we had 31 volunteers.”
Current staffing includes four full-time employees and 19 part-time employees. The district typically has three employees at the station at a time, nearly around the clock. They call in additional part-time personnel as needed.
In addition to increases in personnel costs, the district is seeing higher costs for equipment, maintenance, and daily operations such as fuel and utilities. The additional levy would help the district keep up with these increases, Taylor said. He noted that the levy request is not for a new fire station.
The fire district’s service area covers 119 square miles and includes the village of Mount Sterling, Pleasant Township in Madison County, and Darby Township in Pickaway County. Residents in these areas are eligible to vote on the levy. The district also provides contracted fire services to Monroe Township in Pickaway County and Madison Township in Fayette County.