What a potential levy would look like is uncertain at this point, but the council debated on Monday putting either an additional levy ― the city already has two fire levies on the books ― or replacing their existing levies with a new one.
The levy would be needed even if the city doesn’t convert to a career department, but the proposal to transition from a combination to a career department would add nine full-time firefighters which would eliminate 18 part-time positions, “so the dependency on that questionable resource diminishes greatly,” Bennett said. Nearly half of the on-duty staff are part-time personnel.
Bennett would like to add six firefighters either near the end of this year or the start of 2023, and three more firefighters over the course of the ensuing four years.
Recruitment will be competitive as nine area departments are looking to increase their full-time staffing, and that doesn’t include departments in Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, which are going to be hiring collectively hundreds of full-time people, Bennett said.
The staff is recommending a replacement levy, which would replace the exiting two levies that total 7.15 mills with a single levy. The amount of the levy, as well as its length, hasn’t been decided, but discussions among City Council members Monday were around a replacement levy of either 9 or 10.25 mils.
A 9-mil levy could cost the owner of a $150,000 home around $472 a year, and about $65 more on a 10.25-mill levy. Owners of a $150,000 home pay around $300 a year.
This past Monday’s discussion was continued and will resume at a special Saturday morning meeting, and the board could decide on the levy amount and length. Time is short as they have to request the county auditor to certify an amount, and then come back several days later and pass legislation indicating a need to place it on the May ballot.
All this has to be done and sent to the county board of elections by 4 p.m. Feb. 2.
“This is a serious discussion in a very short period of time,” said Councilmember Tim Meyers. “This is a lot of information to take in that I got to go back and tell my neighbors, who are all retired.”
Council seems to be interested in a seven- or eight-year levy, but details on those levy lengths have not yet been calculated.
“Ten years seems like a long time to have to predict the future,” said Councilmember Leslie Besl. “And five years seems kinda short; it’ll be here before you know it.”
The Journal-News has reported on the possibility of a new fire levy for the Fairfield Fire Department since 2019, when it was first discussed as it related to the federal SAFER grant City Council ultimately declined.