Learning from the past, Liberty Township trustees approved a resolution June 22 declaring the necessity for the renewal of a levy to benefit the township’s fire department. That levy will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot.
If voters pass the levy, it would commence in 2018 and the first collection of the tax wouldn’t be due until 2019. The 5.6-mill levy amounts to 56 cents for each one hundred dollars of valuation. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $165.79 annually.
“We’re being proactive,” said Trustee Melanie Leneghan. “The reason we’re proactive is to protect the fire department.”
Leneghan, looking back at the 2012 levy failure, said the board doesn’t want the levy to expire and the fire department to be without funding.
Chief Tom O’Brien was hired by trustees in February. Since his hiring, Leneghan said the fire department is more stable financially due to policies O’Brien has instituted. However, in November 2016 the outlook for the fire department wasn’t as positive as it is now.
“We’ve got money now, but in November I was being told we didn’t have any money,” Leneghan said. “Chief O’Brien wasn’t there.”
Leneghan started a discussion during a November 2016 trustee meeting about possibly turning over the EMS function of the fire department to the Delaware County EMS system. She based the discussion on an EMS study conducted by Delaware County Commissioners.
The county offers EMS service to all municipalities and townships, except in the City of Delaware and Liberty Township. Several other county entities’ fire departments offer EMS for their jurisdictions supported by individual levies.
Last November, Leneghan said she believed the trustees should look at the numbers of the study because the annual expense for Liberty Township alone is $5 million. The county plan proposes paying $17 million annually to cover the entire county.
“I was told the township was broke and I was looking at alternatives,” Leneghan said about the discussion in November. Her thought at the time was, “I would have Delaware County take care of the Columbus Zoo and the northern part of the township as an alternative if we’re broke.”
Delaware County EMS is funded through the county’s general fund which is supported by a half-percent sales tax throughout the county. Liberty Township’s fire department receives a reimbursement for each run they make as a partner of the county.
Leneghan said questions have been raised about paying both taxes.
“I have heard some people ask why we’re paying for both,” she said. “If the residents of the community said, ‘we want lower taxes,’ I would propose exploring the idea.”
But at this time Leneghan said she wasn’t promoting the change in the current fire-EMS model. She said her wanting to make the change was a rumor started on social media.
“I have full confidence in Chief O’Brien,” she said. “Our fire department is extraordinary.”
Trustee Tom Mitchell said, “I’m absolutely in support of the levy,” in a phone interview with The Gazette.
Trustee Shyra Eichhorn couldn’t be reached for comment, but during the June 22 meeting, she told O’Brien he had her full support in pursuing the levy.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.