SPRINGFIELD TWP. The Springfield Township Fire Department has two levies on the March 17 primary election – Issue 5 and Issue 6.

Issue 5 is a renewal 1.8-mill levy with an increase of 1.5 mills to provide fire protection; provide and maintain fire apparatus, equipment, buildings or sites, or for the payment of permanent, part-time, volunteer fire fighters, or authorized agencies to operate the same; to purchase ambulance equipment, or to provide ambulance of emergency medical services.

Fire Chief Vic Wincik said the 1.8 mill renewal is estimated to bring in $468,072 and this levy was last replaced in 2004. The 1.5-mil additional is estimated to bring in $417,317 per year, and the combined total of Issue 5 is estimated to bring in $885,389.

“The increase is needed due, in part, to the reduction in Local Government Funds (LGF),” said Wincik. “One of the fire department’s direct loss is associated with the JEDD revenue sharing. Before the Trustees had to discontinue sharing of this revenue source with departments, the Fire Department counted on approximately $30,000 a year to pay for apparatus and equipment.”

He said that ambulance transport billing receipts have decreased. The transport billing program implemented in the 1990s was intended to reduce reliance on property taxes. The program collected as much as $425,000 and has been declining. Most recently in 2019, the program collected approximately $380,000, resulting in a loss of approximately $45,000 in revenue.

Issue 6 is a renewal of a 3.2-mill levy for the purpose of purchasing ambulance equipment, or to provide ambulance or emergency medical services. The renewal is estimated to bring in $587,308 and was first approved in 1995 and has not been replaced since.

Both levies will stop collecting in December 2020.

“We need voters to approve both Issues 5 and 6,” Wincik said. “The choosing of one levy over the other will cause the department to most likely reduce and/or eliminate services.”

Wincik spoke about the increase of Issue 5 and what it would cost homeowners.

“It is important to expound on the fact that not every residents’ home has an appraised value of $100,000. Respectfully, if a resident’s home is appraised at a lesser amount, their yearly tax increase will be less,” said Wincik.

The yearly increase of the 1.5-mil additional levy, to the resident owning a home with an appraised value of $50,000 (or $16,500 which is the amount the resident is actually taxed on) is estimated to be $26.25 a year, or $2.19 per month. If the resident’s home has an appraised value of $75,000 (or $24,750 which is the amount the resident is taxed on) the increase is estimated to be $39.38 a year, or $3.28 per month. And, if a resident’s home has an appraised value of $100,000 (or $33,000 which is the amount the resident is taxed on) the increase is estimated to be $52.50 per year, or $4.37 per month.

The increase is needed because the last increase in funding for the Fire Department was in 2010.

Wincik said the increase is needed to add station staffing.

“Station staffing has suffered over the past several years to extend revenue as long as possible,” he said. “Unfortunately, this affects the department’s ability to respond to multiple (or simultaneous) emergencies.”

Apparatus and personnel from another community usually responds to these emergencies. Wincik said that in 2019, the Fire Department had to rely on another community to respond to approximately 170 EMS emergencies for the township.

“The Fire Department is blessed to have a great working relationship with our neighboring communities and appreciates their unquestioned willingness to respond, but it takes those resources away from their primary responsibility and should be used sparingly,” he said.

The additional funding would be used to fund participation in the Summit County Special Operation Teams, such as Hazardous Material Response Team, Technical Rescue Operations Team, Water Rescue Team and Incident Management Assistance Team.

Additional funding would be used to improve response to remote areas of the township seeing increased hiking, horseback riding and ATV activity. It would be used to make necessary repairs to the fire station apparatus bay.

Apparatus bay steel support beams date back to when the original fire station was built in 1965, and these steel support columns are deteriorated to the point of needing to be replaced soon. Also, the necessity to expand the apparatus bay floor area to better store apparatus and equipment, and the necessity to resurface the apparatus bay floor to eliminate slips and fall hazards.

A fire hose drying system and renovation of biological contamination room to be used to decontaminate firefighters and firefighter gear from cancer causing contamination after returning from a fire could also be explored.

It would also be used to make annual payments on the department’s debt. Currently, the department is making payments on a new fire tanker truck – that replaced a 1989 tanker and a 1983 ladder truck – ambulance cots, ambulance advanced life support equipment as well as saving money for future apparatus purchases such as an ambulance to be delivered in June 2020.

“Those are some of the priority projects” Wincik said. “Overall, I do not like having to ask the residents to increase their property taxes, but there comes a time when operating efficiently – or otherwise known as doing-more-with-less – just equates to doing less with less. The men and women of Springfield Fire Department have worked hard to provide an advanced level of service to the residents, and we are confident that the residents appreciate this effort and will support the department in its continued commitment to providing exceptional service.”