By Amanda Ensinger
The Franklin Township fire levy has failed. Officials will now go back to the drawing board to determine how to proceed.
According to the unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections, the Franklin Township Fire Department levy failed with 491 against and 379 in favor of the levy. This equals 56 percent against the levy and 44 percent in favor. The 19.5-mil levy would have been permanent.
“I think the biggest reason the levy failed was because a dark-money group ran a campaign aimed at defeating the levy,” said Aryeh Alex, township trustee. “The group sent out mailers, had a website, ran digital ads and had paid canvassers that went door-to-door across the township.”
Alex said the other reason he believes the levy failed was because of the economic issues the entire country is facing. Alex said that when people are unsure how they are going to pay their bills, it is harder to ask them to vote in favor of a levy that would increase their expenses.
“When there is economic uncertainty, like we are all facing right now, it is a lot tougher to ask people to pay a little more in property taxes,” Alex said. “When we originally approved adding this levy to the March ballot, we had no idea what was in store. Now everything has changed.”
The levy would have combined all the township levies into one, as well as replaced a timed levy that will expire in 2021. The levy also would have collected property taxes from the entire township, including properties that were annexed with a type II annexation.
“In 2003, the Ohio legislative government passed laws to allow townships to conform our boundaries to include properties that were annexed with a type II annexation,” said Franklin Township Fire Chief James Welch. “What this means for Franklin Township residents is that this would have spread out the expense(s) for fire services to include all properties that were annexed since 2003.”
Properties like the Hollywood Casino Columbus that annexed out of the township would have had to pay their portion for the levy. As a result, the increase for township residents would have been minimal, according to township trustees.
Township leaders wanted the levy to be permanent so they could avoid constantly coming back to taxpayers for levy renewals.
Due to the levy failing, the township will likely come back to taxpayers for a levy renewal in November. The township has not determined how much they will ask voters for in November and if they will need more than what is going to expire.
“We also are hoping we are going to get some federal funding as a result of COVID-19 for local governments,” Alex said. “We are trying to look for additional funding resources to take the burden off of taxpayers.”
Alex said right now the fire department has enough to keep all their staff through at least the end of the year and they do not anticipate any layoffs or reductions in service.