Jerome Township is one step closer to putting a fire levy on the November ballot.
At their regular meeting Tuesday night, township trustees approved a resolution declaring the necessity for the levy and asking for certification of the intended millage from the Union County Auditor’s Office.
An informal request for the certified numbers was made at the last meeting on July 2, but township fiscal officer, Robert Caldwell, said procedures have changed.
The township is requesting the certification of two possible millage amounts: a 5.5 mill levy and a 5.3 mill levy.
Officials decided on the range after weeks of conversation with both the Division of Fire and residents of the township.
Currently, the township’s fire budget is $2,957,333 and it operates on three levies: a 2.3 mill levy from 1991 that generates approximately $300,000, a 10 mill levy from 1992 that generates approximately $1.3 million and a 2.9 mill levy from 2011 that generates approximately $800,000.
Initially, Chief Doug Stewart asked the trustees to consider an 8.9 mill levy in June to handle staffing of the existing station on U.S. 42 and the planned second station in Jerome Village. If that would have been approved, it would have increased 6.6 mills and the levy from 2011 would have dropped off.
“We understand that we couldn’t sell that. We know it would be tough and that’s why we came down to 5.5 and with the last presentation, we knew that 5.5 was where we needed to be,” Stewart said. “We know we have a challenge ahead of us no matter what number we pick.”
Stewart urged the trustees to consider the challenge of continuing to lower the millage amount, adding that any number under the initial proposal “would be a cut in staff.”
According to the certification that came back from the Auditor’s Office, the 5.3 mill levy would bring in $1,845,824 and the 5.5 mill levy would bring in $1,915,478 per year. Stewart said that would mean, roughly, a difference of an additional $185 and $192 a year for taxpayers, respectively, per $100,000 in market value.
“In my honest opinion, I don’t think there’s really that much of a difference in the 5.3 verses the 5.5,” said Trustee CJ Lovejoy. “I think we should push for the 5.5.”
He said that he hates asking residents to pay more taxes but recognizes the staffing issue “should have been done 12 or 15 years ago.”
Trustee Joe Craft echoed the notion, stating it was something that came to the board years ago.
“Looking back on it, when the chief came to us, we should’ve started on this two years ago,” Craft said. “It needed to be addressed before that, but we’ve been in office for five, maybe six years and we’ve had adequate time to address it.”
Trustee Ron Rhodes said he is “good with either number.”
“There isn’t much difference with the dollar amount, so I’m comfortable putting the 5.5 number on the table,” Rhodes said.
At the last meeting, the trustees voted to add a third meeting to the monthly rotation and next Thursday, July 25 at 7 a.m. would be that first additional meeting.
If the meeting has a quorum, the trustees will vote on which millage amount on July 25. If there isn’t a quorum, the last chance will be August 6—the day before ballot information is due to the board of elections.