By Linda Dillman
Hamilton Township is taking a bundling approach in asking voters to renew a pair of fire levies, while adding another mill and a half to the total in raising enough revenue to address needs and replace aging equipment.
Bundling the three and four mill (seven mill total) renewal levies will not cost property owners more than what is currently collected. The only new money is through an additional 1.5 mils, bringing the combined total to 8.5 mils, which is the amount that will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot.
“Residents will only notice a slight increase because the other seven mills have already been levied in the past,” said Richard Lewis, treasurer for Citizens for Hamilton Township Fire Levy. “The old levies provided $2,514,154 per year for the Hamilton Township Fire Department. The 1.5 mill addition will provide an additional $656,460 per year for the township fire department. Over the lifespan, it will bring in $3,282,300.”
Lewis said the cost of living continues to increase throughout the country and fire departments are not immune to the situation. He said adjustments were made to budgets, but the township is not able to sustain the old model under the restraints of current levies.
“The (bundled levy) funds are only for increases in operational costs and are the lowest amounts possible to maintain the current model of operation,” said Lewis. “This levy will only increase taxes by $52.50 per $100,000 of property valuation. This breaks down to $4.37 per month per $100,000.
The fire department delivers round-the-clock coverage for unincorporated areas of Hamilton Township, Obetz, Lockbourne, Reese, Rickenbacker, Shadeville, and surrounding communities with full time and part time members working at two stations.
The department is dispatched by the city of Columbus and provides emergency medical services, fire suppression, hazardous material response, and Community Paramedicine services. It averages more than 5,500 runs a year.
The volunteer group treasurer said the increase is needed for several reasons.
“First, we are looking to replace two of our trucks within the next five years,” said Lewis. “We have an older ambulance and fire engine that are going to meet their life expectancy within that time frame. Second, the economy has made costs rise beyond what the old levies provided. The 1.5 mill increase was the most cost-effective way to provide the funds needed without placing a large burden on the residents.”
According to Lewis, COVID-19 impacted the department in many ways. He said firefighter/paramedics worked diligently through the pandemic and often sacrificed time with loved ones in order to provide service to the township.
The federal government provided additional funds to public service departments and Hamilton Township operated within the confines of the rules for the federal aid.
“We were able to update equipment and provide relief for the budget due to higher costs,” Lewis said. “However, we do not currently use any grants or federal funding in the operation of the Hamilton Township Fire Department.”
What happens if voters say no in November? It is back to the ballot at a later date.
“I encourage all residents to go to the Franklin County auditor’s site and look up the assessment of their home’s value,” Lewis said. “This will help them gain a better understanding of the costs involved. Market value and assessed value are not the same. The assessed value is typically much lower than the market value.”