Troubled economy may discourage voter support for local fire levies

Cory Smith

The struggling economy and increase in prices may prevent local fire protection levies from being passed tomorrow.

The Ravenna Township ballot will include a proposed 1.43-mill fire protection levy, while Edinburg Township will ask voters to support a 1.5-mill fire replacement levy.

Lingering talks of a recession and an increase in utilities has both township trustees concerned about additional tax dollars.

“In general, people are very hesitant to vote for levies,” Edinburg Township trustee Diane Austin said. “Fortunately, our township residents have been excellent about always supporting the fire department.”

Ravenna Trustee Pat Artz said because costs have increased since the original levy, it has become very difficult to work with a levy from 1996, the last time taxes were increased in the township for fire services.

“I understand everyone’s frustration,” Artz said. “The township is cutting expenses wherever it can, but everyone is being affected by the recession. Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet.”

Edinburg Township currently operates on a 20-year-old mill rate. Edinburg Trustee Thomas Repcik agreed with Artz.

“Services, calls, equipment and utilities have all gone up requiring more costs,” Repcik said.

Operating under the current mill rate Repcik said is like “working for the past twenty years without a raise.”

The Ravenna levy would generate more than $200,000 for the fire department, which failed to meet its budget in 2007. If passed, the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay an additional $45 annually.

The largest expense for the township is the fire department, with a nearly $400,000 budget, but the township spent $785,000 last year.

Artz said she is working with the fire department to avoid over-time costs and slash expenses. But if the levy does not pass, she said the township “may have to cut (down) the fire department’s staff.”

In Edinburg Township, a current home valued at $100,000 pays $32 annually. If the levy passes, the equivalent home would pay $47 per year in property taxes.

Contact public affairs reporter Cory Smith at [email protected].