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Published: Wednesday, 8/15/2007

Voters have mix of fire levies to sort

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The fate of Sylvania Township s fire-protection services seems to weigh heavily on the ability of voters to sort out a confusing set of funding issues on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Township trustees earlier this week agreed to place two issues on the ballot.

One calls for the sale of $10 million in bonds to finance construction of new fire stations and equipment. The other calls for an additional 0.5 mills for five years of operations.

A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 of taxable property.

A citizens group called Supporters for a Safe Sylvania already has 1.5-mill township fire levy proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot in the city of Sylvania.

With enough valid signatures on petitions circulated in the township, a similar initiative issue will be on the township ballot.

The fire department serves the township, including the city of Sylvania.

Some involved with the levy proposals fear that voters, out of frustration, might just nix all proposed tax increases pertaining to the fire department, which could affect services.

Mike Brown, co-chairman of Supporters for a Safe Sylvania, called the trustees decisions to put two fire issues on the Nov. 6 ballot an 11th-hour attempt to complicate the voting process.

Mr. Brown said his group will work hard for the 1.5-mill levy proposal that it has secured for at least the city ballot. We will go door to door if we have to, he said. It will be our job to educate the voters and tell them what the 1.5-mill levy will do.

The 1.5-mill levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 house about $46 annually for five years. The identical levies would generate a total of between $2 million and $2.2 million a year, according to members of Supporters for a Safe Sylvania.

Funds would let the township restore the transport unit and bring the department s staffing to a minimum of 16 firefighters per day.

In December, trustees voted 2-1, with Carol Contrada dissenting, to reduce staffing by five firefighters and eliminate emergency transport service to offset a deficit in the department s 2007 budget.

Trustee DeeDee Liedel said it was important for trustees to get the 0.5-mill levy on the ballot because of questions related to the initiative levy.

The township needs to assume the 1.5-mill initiative issue won t pass or that legal issues might arise if it does, she said.

She said there is no mechanism in place for how levy money would get to the township from the city if Sylvania residents approve the 1.5-mill levy.

However, Mr. Brown said the city already has said it would transfer the money to the township if the levy passes.

Questions remain on the amount of the operating levy being sought by trustees. A 0.5-mill levy, Mr. Brown said, won t cover the fire department s expenses through next year at the current staffing levels.

That, he said, indicates that trustees intend to cut the fire department s staff further to make up the deficit, he said. You will see reductions of the full-time firefighters. You will see the staff supplemented with part-time firefighters, he said.

Trustee Pam Hanley and Mrs. Liedel have said the township needs to consider hiring part-time firefighters to augment the fire department s full-time staff.



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