Liberty Twp. to seek fire funding with new levy

Liberty Twp. officials say they will run out of revenue soon if they don’t pass a new continuous fire levy in November.

Township trustees set things in motion Tuesday to find out exactly how much money a 3, 3.5 or 4 mill levy would garner. Staff estimates show taxpayers owning a $100,000 home would pay a total — including the existing levies passed in 1999 and 2010— of $295, $301 or $318 depending on which option they choose.

The revenues from the three different levy requests would be $7 million, $7.6 million or $8 million. The existing levy from 2010 and the 1999 levy will bring in an estimated $4.8 million to cover $6.2 million in expenses in 2017. The cost to the same $100,000 home taxpayer is estimated at $178.

If the township remains status quo the fire and EMS fund balance, estimated to be $1.1 million to start next year, will evaporate and put the fund into the negative to the tune of $233,439 by the start of 2018.

“We are definitely heading into the negative if we don’t do some thing soon,” Township Administrator Kristen Bitonte told the trustees. “Red is not good.”

Finance Director Michelle Greis gave the trustees a number of "scenarios" to consider, including discarding the 3-mill levy from 1999 that only costs the taxpayer $61 and going for a new 6.5 mill levy that would cost a total of $345 and bring in $8.5 million. The trustees quickly dismissed that option as too expensive for taxpayers.

The trustees also decided they will go for a continuous levy — rather than a termed tax that voters must re-approve — against their fiscal officer’s preference. Pam Quinlisk said she is not a big fan of continuous levies.

“Because of all the big projects out there I think it gives the residents a way to come back and say ‘they did a good job’ and they give us a new one, or they didn’t live up,” she said. “We do our sheriff’s contracts (police levy) the same, it holds accountability back to us.”

In 2019 Greis plugged in an estimated $3 million increase — bringing expenses over $9 million for that year — for when new fire station 114 comes online. The township hopes to use funds from their Residential Incentive Districts to pay for construction — the rough estimate for construction is $4 million — but they will need nine new employees and equipment like a new ladder truck.

Board President Tom Farrell said even if they weren’t planning to build the firehouse they need a continuous levy to meet the service demands that continually grow. Levy dollars stay flat year-to-year but the population and service needs continue to grow, as more people and businesses move in, individual taxpayer bills go down.

“Regardless of what happens, even if we didn’t grow at all, our operations would continue at the current rate, indefinitely” he said. “We would not be able to pay for those services, so why would we worry only about this five year period, we should extend it out indefinitely, therefore operations costs will be closer to being covered.”

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