By Dedra Cordle
The financial deficit that was looming on the horizon for the Jackson Township Fire Department has been pushed back to another day.
On Nov. 3, voters decisively approved a 4-mill fire replacement levy that would run for a term of five years. The county auditor estimates that the department could generate between $4.9 million and $5.8 million annually when collections begin in January of 2021.
According to the unofficial results posted on the county board of election’s website, 14,559 voters, or 59.35 percent of the electorate, voted for the levy and 9,971 voters voted against it.
Speaking on behalf of the department, Fire Chief Randy Little said they were grateful for the community’s support of Issue 19.
“The Jackson Township Fire Department is humbled by the trust and support that the community has shown,” he said. “These brave men and women who have made sacrifices for this department recognize the financial sacrifices the community is making for us.
“I know this was not an easy decision for many with the pandemic and the high unemployment rate due to the pandemic, but we promise to use this funding wisely and we promise to continue the high level of service that the community expects of us.”
Little said the department intends to use the funds generated by the levy to cover the cost of about $750,000 in deferred building maintenance at the department’s four fire stations and pay $1.7 million in apparatus lease payments.
The department also intends to obtain new equipment within the next several years. According to Little, the department needs to purchase two fire engines, five medics, five station vehicles and one ladder truck in order to keep their safety equipment “as reliable as possible.”
The funds will also cover their participation in community programs and training for the fire department personnel. The department currently employs 86 full-time firefighters and roughly 15 part-time firefighters.
Had the community voted against the ballot measure, the fire department expected to see a budget shortfall at the end of 2021. Little said though he did not foresee making personnel cuts at that time, several budgetary items would have to be reduced significantly or eliminated altogether. He added he was thankful it would not come to that due to the willingness of the voters to support the issue.
“I hope they accept our sincerest gratitude,” he said.