By Amanda Ensinger
In the case of an emergency, residents of Prairie Township will know they are covered thanks to the passing of a recent fire levy.
On May 8, voters approved a 3.61-mil permanent fire levy for the Prairie Township Fire Department. According to the Franklin County Board of Elections, 1,330 voters supported the levy, while 737 opposed it.
“I am proud to say our levy passed with 64 percent supporting it,” said Prairie Township Fire Chief Chris Snyder. “I want to thank all the voters who supported this levy, as well as the board of trustees.”
The new levy will cost homeowners an additional $126 per year for a $100,000 home. It will generate approximately $1.1 million a year in additional income for the fire department.
Before the levy was passed, residents paid an average of $486 per year per $100,000 home for the fire department, now those same residents will pay approximately $600 per year.
Fire department officials plan to use the income generated by the levy to pay for major equipment upgrades.
“We have had unexpected repair costs we haven’t be able to save for,” said Prairie Township Assistant Fire Chief Allen Scott. “Last year, we had $80,000 in unplanned repair costs and this year we already have $50,000.”
Scott said the department has older equipment that needs to be replaced sooner rather than later.
“A lot of our equipment is at the end of its life and it is costing more to continue to repair than replace,” Scott said. “One of our ladder trucks is 18 years old and needs to be replaced. That will cost $1 million alone.”
After replacing essential equipment, officials hope to use the money to increase services in the township.
“We aren’t sure what those services are yet, but it could be hiring more staff or capital improvements,” Scott said. “We think we are good for six years or so before we will need another levy.”
Scott said the main reason they will seek a levy in the future is because the revenue increases by approximately 1.5 percent each year, but expenses increase by 3 to 5 percent. This is primarily due to inflation, rising fuel costs, pay increases, insurance costs and other expenses that continue to rise.
The last time the township asked for new millage was in 2005, however in 2010, the township residents approved a replacement levy. All the township’s levies are permanent.
“We will continue to be good stewards of taxpayer money and hope this will last as long as possible,” Snyder said. “We will not be making rash purchase decisions and will plan as much as possible for the future.”
Snyder added that he is humbled by the support he has received from the community and is thrilled they can continue to provide the same quality service to township residents.