Reily Twp. voters to decide on fire levy

Equipment upgrades, inflation costs demand higher ask, officials say.

Voters in Reily Twp. will have their say on an increased tax levy for the township’s volunteer fire department this coming November.

Butler County’s most rural township is asking its residents to approve a five-year, 4.5 mill tax levy, which would go into effect in 2024. Previously, the township had been operating under a five-year, 2.75 mill levy that was renewed in 2017 with overwhelming support.

Nick Schwab, a volunteer squad lieutenant, farmer, and Reily Twp. Trustee, said the official ballot will describe the levy as an “additional” 4.75 mill, but the old levy will actually be expiring before this new levy would take place.

“We’re putting it on now, but it won’t actually be collected until 2024 — that’s tax year 2023,” Schwab said.

Because the department is made up entirely of volunteers, public money raised in levies goes entirely toward the operational costs of the department’s services — public moneys are not going toward salaries. Schwab said estimating this operation cost can be pretty tricky.

“It’s pretty hard to do, because we’re projecting six years out, how much money we’ll need. We sat down, we went over every truck that we’ll need to buy,” he said. “It’s normal operating plus the additional federal regulations.”

Schwab said inflation and government mandates that can force the department to update equipment are the main reasons the department is asking for more money. This year, for example, he noted that all of the department’s radios will need to be replaced.

“With this inflation, how do you sit there and figure out how much money you’re gonna need for the next six years? The trustees spent a lot of time going over that. We decided that we could operate with a 4.5 mill levy,” Schwab said.

This new levy follows a similar format to past Reily Twp. levies: if passed, it would go into effect for five years, not continuously.

“We had the option of making it continuing, but then the people would never have a vote on that again. So, the trustees decided that the fairest way for the people was to put it on for five years,” Schwab said. “At the end of five years, they could tell us they want to continue or they want to do something different.”

Reily Twp.’s previous fire levy, 2017′s 2.75 mill proposal, was passed with nearly 90% of voter support. Schwab hopes this year’s levy will be met similarly.

“It’s always been well received in the past. I think if we do a good job getting the information out there, hopefully it will pass,” Schwab said. Schwab himself has been a resident of Reily Twp. for around 55 years, and a township trustee for 49 of those. His current term is set to expire in 2023.

He said it’s important to note that in Reilly Twp., residents aren’t charged for using EMS services. All of its operations are maintained through the tax levy and donations, which is made possible by a volunteer staff of more than 30 people.

“When someone calls us, we do not bill them, that’s the other important thing. Nobody has to worry about — if they call the live squad — how much it’s going to cost them,” Schwab said. “We do not bill anybody because we’re all volunteers.”

Reily Twp. residents will be able to vote on this issue in the upcoming election. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8.

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