Washington TownshipMontgomery County, Ohio

New Continuous Fire Levy is on the Spring Ballot

New Continuous Fire Levy is on the Spring Ballot
Posted on 02/01/2019

A 2.85-mill Levy Will Address a Part-Time Firefighter Shortage and a Growing Demand for Services

Centerville/Washington Township residents will be asked to vote this spring on a continuous 2.85-mill levy that would enable the Washington Township Fire Department to address a dual trend -- a shortage of part-time firefighters and an increasing number of calls for service. The ballot issue was approved unanimously in January by the Washington Township Board of Trustees.

“Hiring additional full-time firefighters is a necessity if we are to maintain service levels,” said Trustee President Dale Berry. However, hourly staffing for a full-time firefighter costs more than twice as much as a part-time firefighter -- about $1,090 compared to $469 for a 24-hour period. Salary, medical benefits and earned time off all contribute to the difference.

An Increasing Demand for Services
The part-time shortage has occurred even as the number of fire and emergency medical runs has climbed -- from 6,060 in 2012 to 7,751 in 2018. Much of the increase is fueled by new construction. Throughout Centerville/Washington Township, 629 homes, 865 apartment units and 368 senior living units were either constructed in 2018 or in the planning stage.

A 50-Year-Old Fire Station
The levy also will enable the township to replace the department’s oldest fire station, Station 41 at 163 Maple Avenue. “Station 41 is 50 years old and too small to support adequate staffing and modern apparatus,” said Scott Kujawa, incoming fire chief. “Because the property it sits on does not provide room for expansion, we’ll be moving it to a new location.” The cost of replacing the station is estimated at $3.7 million. 

A Shortage of Part-Time Firefighters
To address the shortage of part-time staff, it’s estimated that a total of 78 full-time positions are required. The levy will enable the department to reach that level by paying for 12 additional firefighters that were hired in 2018 and adding 30 more full-time positions at an estimated annual net cost of $4.19 million. If the levy does not pass, the fire fund balance will drop to $2.17 million in 2022 and reach a negative balance by 2023.

By adding the positions, the department anticipates that daily staffing will now be 87 percent full time, Kujawa said.

 “In an effort to attract part-time firefighters, the department in recent years has waged an ongoing recruitment and retention campaign, including a signing bonus that is distributed over the first year of employment,” said Township Administrator Jesse Lightle. “But like other departments throughout Ohio, we’ve lost more part-time firefighters than we’ve been able to hire because many found full-time employment with other fire departments.”

Cost to Homeowners
If approved, the levy would generate about $5.26 million in the first year.
Homeowners would pay $99.75 per year for every $100,000 of their home’s value -- equivalent to $8.31 per month.

Background & History
The fire department currently is funded with one 4.65-mill renewal levy and one 1.5-mill continuous levy that together cost $169 annually for every $100,000 of home value. The five-year levy was last updated in 2013 when taxpayers approved a 1.65-mill increase to address the loss of state funding, a permanent loss of revenue caused by a decline in property values, increasing fire runs, and a declining number of part-paid volunteers.

“When the 2013 township levy was updated, it was anticipated that further changes in staffing would be needed,” said Lightle. However, in 2018 when the levy was due to expire again, trustees opted for a renewal that did not raise taxes. The renewal enabled the township to monitor staffing and call trends for another year and allowed taxpayers to benefit indefinitely from two state subsidies that otherwise would have been eliminated: a 10 percent rollback for residential property and 2.5 percent for owner-occupied residences.

Who Votes?
Washington Township provides fire and EMS services for Centerville/Washington Township and all residents are eligible to vote on the levy. Washington Township Fire Department protects more taxable property than any department in Montgomery County and is second to Dayton in the population it serves.