A projected deficit for the Sylvania Township Fire Department for next year could be as little as $500,000, according to calculations by Trustee Pam Hanley.
The difference is in sharp contrast to a deficit of $1.5 million to $1.6 million projected by Dave Simko, the township's fiscal officer.
Mrs. Hanley said the differences in the two projections have to do with how the cost of the township's dispatcher's office is charged and terms of the repayment of a debt of about $1 million owed by the fire department to the township's general fund.
Mr. Simko's projection charged the cost of six dispatchers to the police department account and six dispatchers to the fire department account.
Mrs. Hanley said trustees decided to charge the dispatching costs to the two departments based on calls for service to each. She said that put about 15 percent of the cost on the fire department and the rest charged to police. All 12 dispatchers are employees of the police department, and the personnel costs have always been paid from the police account, said Hugh Thomas, township administrator.
Mr. Simko said his figures represent a true cost and that, historically, six dispatchers primarily deal with police duties and the other six primarily deal with fire department needs.
He added that keeping the budgets separate for the two departments is important because the funding differs for each.
Township residents, including those in the city of Sylvania, pay for the fire department, but only the residents who live in the township but outside the city fund the police department through a tax levy.
Mr. Simko noted that the police department doesn't need more than a total of six dispatchers so it seems inappropriate to charge them for the other dispatchers.
Mr. Thomas said there is no contractual difference in the duties of the dispatchers.
He said they may work primarily in one area or another, but they all work together in generally dispatching safety services.
Mrs. Hanley said how certain charges are viewed in the budget is a matter for the trustees to decide.
In recent years, money from the general fund has been used to make up for budget shortfalls in the fire department.
Mr. Simko has the department repaying the money at about $250,000 annually, while Mrs. Hanley suggests a repayment schedule stretching over 12 years, substantially reducing the annual cost.
She noted that it is possible for the trustees to simply forgive the debt if they choose.
The township has held workshops on how to structure the fire department in the budget for next year, but has only begun the overall budgetary process.
The fire department issue has an added importance this year because voters will be faced with three fire levies in November.
A citizens' group collected more than 3,000 petition signatures to get an issue seeking 1.5 mills on the ballot.
The group says passage will allow for needed additional fire department personnel and for capital improvements.
The group, Supporters For A Safe Sylvania, says the measure would be enough to fill the positions of five firefighters eliminated by the trustees and re-institute the transport service which was cut by trustees.
The trustees voted to put two issues on the ballot.
One is a 0.5-mill levy for operations. The other if a 0.5-mill bond issue for capital improvements.
The operations levy, according to Mrs. Hanley, would raise about $780,000 and, she said, would be sufficient to maintain fire department operations without a deficit.
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