After months of conversation, Jerome Township is moving forward with a fire levy on this year’s ballot.
At a continued meeting of the township trustees Friday morning, the board approved a 5.5 mill fire levy to be filed with the board of elections for a vote in November.
The measure came after several conversations with residents and fire officials on what the best millage amount would be for the township.
The decision came down to a 5.3 or a 5.5 mill levy, but ultimately, the vote was for 5.5.
“If we looked over the past ten years, it appeared each year, we were collecting about 7.5% more than the previous year and we identified that due to the growth,” said Trustee Joe Craft. “The next levy that comes up, we’re going to have to consider on the renewal if we need to add to it. We have some pretty big obligations to fill here in the township with safety and fire.”
He said that he would have liked to see an amount under 5 mills but recognized that number “just wouldn’t work.”
Trustee Ron Rhodes said with the growth in the township, he felt comfortable moving forward with the levy.
“We’re adding 200 homes a year to the township, that’s roughly $300,000 a year to the budget,” he said. “That will help us a lot. I don’t like putting on a levy, but it needs to be done.”
Trustee CJ Lovejoy said he recognized the necessity of the levy and that helped him decide.
“The last thing I want to do is ask for more money, but the difference is small and we have to do it,” he said.
Township fire chief, Doug Stewart, said he’s glad the decision was finally made but a lot of work still has to be done.
“I’m glad this finally was approved. It’s not where we wanted to be but after the trustees looked at it, I think they realized it’s where we need to be,” Stewart said. “And we have to remember this won’t address our capital improvement needs. This was just for staffing.”
Revenue from the new levy will generate $1,915,478 annually and Stewart said that would help the fire department staff the current station on U.S. 42 and the planned station in Jerome Village.
“It isn’t going to solve the problem, but it will certainly help,” Stewart said. “We’re behind where we should be. This should be a conversation about a third station, not a second station. That’s where we should be in the discussion.”
Stewart said the plan is to staff the stations with a phasing process.
“We’ll start with a minimal staff. At each station, we need six people for the medic and engine,” he said. “We will have three people at the new station and will cross-staff that with the existing station.”