Higher Taxes May Be Needed to Fund West Carrolton Fire Services

City officials had talked about putting a 3.5-mill emergency-services levy on the spring ballot. But Townsend said that amount would not be sufficient to fund more staff and avoid temporary station closures, which have continued into the fall, records show.

by Nick Blizzard, Dayton Daily News, Ohio / November 14, 2019

(TNS) - West Carrollton will likely ask its voters next spring to approve a higher tax increase than previously expected to help fund more firefighters and avoid temporary closures at city fire stations.

Passage of a 3.9-mill fire and EMS levy would help the city avoid dipping further into its reserve fund, which it did this year in an effort to curb temporary service shutdowns, West Carrollton City Manager Brad Townsend said.

City officials had talked about putting a 3.5-mill emergency-services levy on the spring ballot. But Townsend said that amount would not be sufficient to fund more staff and avoid temporary station closures, which have continued into the fall, records show.

Both of the city’s fire stations have been temporarily closed 11 times in September, city records show. Station 57 was browned out for 36 hours, as was Medic 57, while Medic 56 was out for 96 hours, according to the city.

The higher millage would generate about $640,000 more a year and “help us retain the two full-time people we added this year,” Townsend said, “plus add four full-time firefighter/paramedics and also increase the salary pool.”

The 3.9 mills would increase the tax hike for owners of homes valued at $100,000 to about $136 a year, he said.

Maintaining a reserve fund of 25 percent of the city’s general fund is a common goal, Townsend said. The 2020 general fund is projected at $8.6 million and the reserve balance at $1.9 million, he said.

“So we’re not quite at that level right now,” Townsend said of the 25 percent goal. “Three months (worth of funds) is usually the target.”

A survey conducted by Wright State University earlier this year indicated that more than 52 percent of respondents would favor approving a property tax hike in the range of $100 to $125 a year.

When the property tax hike range was increased to $125 to $150 a year, 42 percent said they were likely to support while 49.3 percent said they were unlikely, according to the results.

More than 86 of those responding to the survey said they owned homes, according to Mike Wiehe, director of the WSU Applied Policy Research Institute.

The city is looking to change its operating model for the fire department, which has been heavily dependent on part-time firefighters. This has led in recent years to retain staff, prompting temporary closures of services or stations, Fire Chief Chris Barnett has said.

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©2019 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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