MADISON TOWNSHIP -- Madison and Springfield township residents will decide Nov. 5 additional, continuing tax levies for their respective fire departments.
Madison Township residents will vote on a 3.5-mill levy to maintain the fire department’s current level of services. Springfield Township residents will have their say on the proposed 3-mill levy that will also maintain fire department’s services, according to the ballot.
“The funding is needed due to increased costs of providing services to the community -- increases in fuel and maintenance costs,” said Madison Township Fire Chief Ron Luttrell.
Madison Township’s proposed levy would bring in an estimated $500,000 in additional revenue per year.
The cost per homeowner is based on a portion of the assessed property value. For someone with a $100,000 home, the additional cost is an estimated $122.50 per year, $10.21 per month, or about 34 cents per day. For a median priced home in Madison Township -- one valued at $78,000 -- the additional cost is $95.55 per year, $7.96 per month or about 26 cents per day.
In Springfield Township, Fire Chief Matthew Carey reports an additional 3-mill levy could raise $801,000. Someone with a $100,000 property should expect to pay $105 per year, $8.75 per month or 29 cents per day.
“The need for us has continued to increase. As the community grows, the need for fire/EMS grows,” Carey said. “Life-saving equipment isn’t cheap.”
He estimates a replacement ambulance costs more than $200,000, and a fire engine would cost more than $500,000. Stretchers come in at $40,000 apiece, and a cardiac monitor might be around $25,000.
“The levy … (would allow) us to continue to improve equipment and personnel to cover the increasing demand for service. We are currently 112 calls more than we had this time last year,” Carey said.
If the levy passes, it will primarily be used to upgrade and maintain equipment. Further, Carey intends to establish a “normal” replacement schedule” for ambulances and anticipates looking into increased peak hours to help maintain staffing of a third medic unit.
If the measure fails, the department would not be able to replace equipment as frequently, and less-trained members would be available to meet the increased service needs of the community.
In this scenario, Carey said he’d need to explore “hard bills” for both residents and non-residents for EMS services. “Soft bills” are not sent to collections or otherwise followed up on to collect the full bill if they cannot or do not pay. “Hard bills” would hold those who receive services fully accountable.
“Cost and demand drive our operation,” Luttrell said. “The levy is important because it ensures the safety, needs, and growth of the community.”
In Madison Township, Luttrell says the new levy would generate “needed” revenue to cover the fire department’s current operation expenses and upcoming, mandated upgrades in communication equipment. The department will soon transition to using a Multi Agency Radio Communication System (MARCS), which requires monthly subscriber fees.
The current operation expenses include utilities, employee compensation, increased costs of health-care benefits, state mandated employer pension contribution increases, fuel and utility cost increases and increased state-mandated training for firefighter and EMS re-certification requirements.
If passed, the levy on November’s ballot would be in addition to two operating levies and an equipment levy that are currently in place for the fire department’s benefit. A 4-mill operations levy is due for renewal in November 2020, and a 5.5-mill continuous operations levy was first passed in 2000.
The 1.75-mil equipment levy -- meant for updating and maintaining vehicles and equipment -- was approved in 2016.
“This additional funding is needed to continue providing current services to Madison Township residents and businesses,” Luttrell said. “We need to convey to the residents how important this levy is to maintain the current level of services to Madison Township.
“We have been and will continue to be good stewards of the available funding provided to operate the department. We’ve reduced expenses in areas where we could without affecting day to day operations.”
Additionally, he added that the Madison Township Fire Department has been “very active in obtaining various grants from different agencies.” Since 2015, Luttrell estimated the department has obtained more than $1,142,138 in grants for vehicles, and equipment updates.
If the levy passes, Luttrell hopes to return to “optimal manning” or six personnel per day -- four full-time and two part-time. Currently, the fire department has reduced staffing to five personnel by cutting one part-time person.
If the levy fails, Luttrell said he anticipates further reduction of staffing levels, likely down to four per day. This could cause the closure of its Belmont Avenue Station (Station 2) in the Roseland Area, he said.
It would also mean reconsidering contracts with other townships. Luttrell says the department would likely need to opt-out of those contacts with places like nearby Monroe Township, which approached the township requesting primary EMS services for its residents and businesses in January 2019.
The revenue generated from all of the township’s EMS (ambulance) soft billing from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies is nearly $300,000 per year and provided at $0 out-of-pocket expense to residents, according to Luttrell.
“(If the levy fails, it) would also cause a further reduction in revenue from lost EMS billing due to not being able to handle our current call volume,” Luttrell said. “As you can see, there will be some tough decisions to be made should voters turn down this levy.”
Carey said townships are limited on how they can fund their departments. Currently, he said, the department only “hard bills” non-residents.
“We do not want to place undue hardship on residents or cause them to not choose to receive help when needed,” he said.
Still, about 10 percent of Springfield Township Fire Department’s funding derives from EMS billing. He urged people to visit www.springfieldlevy.com to get more information on the proposed levy.
“We don’t know what people’s finances are. We want residents to be informed and to make a decision on what they feel they can do,” Carey said. “We are not going to tell them how to vote just help them with the information to decide.”
In Madison, Luttrell urged residents to also investigate the levy and to consider supporting it.
“Please help us keep the Madison Township community and our firefighters safe by passing this levy. Without additional funding, the lives and the health of residents and first responders will be at risk,” Luttrell said.
OTHER LOCAL QUESTIONS & ISSUES
City of Shelby
In Shelby, voters will be asked to renew three levies -- two for the city and one for the library.
Voters in Shelby will be asked to renew a tax levy for the parks and for the health department. Both are 1 mill, 5-year levies and would cover general operations.
Also on the ballot, is a 5-year, 1.75 mill levy for current expenses at the Marvin Memorial Library. The library is located at 29 W. Whitney Ave.
Village of Plymouth
The Village of Plymouth will vote on a renewal tax levy for maintaining and operating the village cemetery. It is a 1 mill, 5-year levy.
Monroe, Perry & Washington and Worthington townships
In Monroe Township, two renewal levies will be brought before voters. The first is for operation, maintenance and improvement of the Lucas-Monroe Park. This is 0.15 mills for five years. The other is a 2-mill, 5-year levy for maintaining roads and equipment.
Perry Township residents will also see a renewal levy on their ballot. The 1.8 mill, 5-year tax levy is for purchase of road equipment and general road repairs.
In Washington Township, the renewal tax levy on the ballot is for maintaining fire department and emergency medical services. It is a 2.5-mill, 5-year levy.
In Worthington Township, voters are asked about a 0.5-mill, 5-year renewal tax levy for operation and maintenance of Frances Hitchman Park.
City of Mansfield
In Mansfield, those in precinct 4-C will vote on whether or not Sunday sales for wine and mixed beverages between 10 a.m. and midnight should be allowed at K.V. Market.
Lucas and Ontario Local School Districts
The Lucas Local School District is asking voters to renew its 10.1-mill, 5-year levy, which is to avoid an operating deficit.
Ontario Local School District is asking for an additional tax levy to avoid an operating deficit. It is asking for a 6.9 mill, 5-year levy. To read more about this levy, click here.