By Dedra Cordle
While a determination has yet to be made regarding the placement of a fire levy on the November ballot, the Jackson Township board of trustees are now mulling a new option.
At the July 21 meeting and by a 2-1 vote, the board approved a resolution of necessity that would allow the county auditors to certify current total tax valuations and dollar amounts that would be generated by a new 4-mill fire levy that would expire in five years.
The millage and temporary levy was proposed by trustee Jim Rauck who said he wanted to offer the township voters a different method to fund the fire department. He added that several fire departments that are roughly the same size have placed temporary measures on the ballot.
Trustee Dave Burris, who voted against the resolution, said it rarely stays as a temporary measure.
“Most townships don’t drop it off after five years,” he said.
This latest exploration of funding for the fire department comes on the heels of two additional resolutions that have been passed within the last month. In late June, the board approved a resolution allowing the auditor’s office to certify total current tax valuations and dollar amounts generated by a 7-mill renewal levy, and on July 7 the board approved a resolution allowing the auditor’s office to certify total current tax valuations and dollar amounts generated by a 7-mill replacement levy.
Fiscal officer Ron Grossman said it is not uncommon for trustees to send in multiple resolutions related to old mills and new mills to explore estimated revenue.
“They can send in as many requests as they want,” he said. “They usually do it all at once, but they can do it as many times as they want before the deadline (to place a measure on the ballot).”
Grossman said the auditor’s office told them that more than $8 million would be generated annually should the trustees place the 7-mill replacement levy on the ballot. He added that it would raise taxes as it brings property tax evaluations to current levels.
He said the township is currently collecting 2.6 mills of that 7-mill permanent levy that was approved by voters in 1985. The township is also collecting on five additional levies, all collected at different effective millage rates.
Burris said that one reason he voted against the motion, as well as the one approved on July 7, is because he feels the department has enough funds to get through a 18-24 month period.
He said now is not the right time to ask voters to approve a new fire levy, or even a replacement levy.
Trustee Ron McClure said they are just presenting the options to the voters and that they would determine the outcome.
Burris reiterated that more funding methods can be employed.
“We need to think outside the box,” he said.
He asked administrator Shane Farnsworth to research whether it would be legal to place a 0.25 percent income tax on the ballot in the future so that residents who live in unincorporated areas can fund the fire department.
“They’re getting the same service as everyone else and they’re not paying for it,” he said.
Farnsworth said he would look into the legality of the issue.
The trustees did not vote to hold a special meeting on the ballot options. Instead, they will likely discuss and vote on the matter at their next board meeting, which takes place at 7 p.m. on Aug. 4 via Facebook Live.