Sunday, Dec 04, 2016
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Sylvania Township officials head toward asking for new fire levy

A levy is needed for the Sylvania Township Fire Department to maintain its services and to avoid a deficit in 2015, the fire chief and township administrator said Wednesday.

A draft of the township fire budget shows a $300,000 deficit in 2015 and $1.2 million deficit in 2016.

Township Administrator John Zeitler and township Fire Chief Jeffrey Kowalski urged the township trustees during a budget review meeting Wednesday to consider placing a levy on the ballot in May or November, so that, if passed by voters, tax collections from it would be generated by 2015.

“We want the public to understand we are not here to buy frivolous things, but maintain our services,” Chief Kowalski said.

Mr. Zeitler suggested the trustees begin Jan. 2 by forming a committee to help determine size of the levy, and then begin a public campaign.

“Money is running out. Not because of the expense side, it's because of the revenue,” Mr. Zeitler explained.

He told trustees that, since 2012, the fire fund revenue has been losing about $400,000 in real estate tax collections a year. 

He estimated the fire fund's revenues from seven levies to be $5.5 million in 2014. In addition, the fund receives $757,000 from the state from the Rollback Homestead program and has another $700,000 in revenues from Lucas County, adding up to about $7 million in estimated total revenues for 2014.

The draft of the fire budget shows that estimated $7 million in revenues, as well as $8.1 million in expenses next year, and that doesn't include possible wage increases for employees. The deficit is covered from a cash reserve, which was $2.8 million this year.

In 2015, the total revenue, with money used from the remaining cash reserve, is estimated at $7.9 million. But total expenditures are $8.2 million, leaving a $300,000 deficit. In 2016, the cash reserve is expected to be gone, leaving the fire budget with a $1.2 million deficit.

Chief Kowalski said the last time the department requested a levy from voters, a 1.25-mill levy in 2008, the township promised it would not return for another levy for five years.

Mr. Zeitler and Dave Simko, township fiscal officer, said the fire department, which serves the township and the City of Sylvania, has cut back where possible and “shepherded” taxpayer money to stretch out tax dollars an extra year.

Three of the seven fire levies were passed in the 1980s. Revenues from them were hurt after 2008, Mr. Zeitler said, because of the recession and noticeable drop in home values, thus reducing levy collections.

Trustees are expected to vote on the budget before the end of the year.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.

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