Clearcreek-Springboro fire levy debate

Property owners would pay most in Warren County

Trustees in Clearcreek Twp. — third among 11 Warren County townships in net property taxes — disagree about asking voters for an additional 4.5 mill levy to fund fire protection and ambulance services.

Still, the trustees voted 2-1 on Thursday to ask voters to approve a continuing 4.5 mill property tax levy expected to raise about $4.4 million a year on the May 7 ballot.

If approved by voters, property owners in the township — and the city of Springboro — would pay an additional $137.81 a year for every $100,000 in property valuation, according to the county auditor’s office.

In 2014, property owners would pay $463.66 for every $100,000 of property value — more than any other township in the county, unless additional levies are approved, according to the auditor’s office.

Supporters say the taxes are needed to maintain the existing level of service.

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“No one wants to pay more taxes,” Trustee Jason Gabbard said, noting support for the fire district in a recent community survey. “It’s time to put it to a vote.”

Failure to approve the levy will result in a reduction in service, including slower response times, to offset projected deficits growing from $2 million this year to $2.5 million in 2014, Fire Chief Bob Kidd said.

Unlike in other townships, Kidd pointed out his department covers a city and township. As a bedroom community, Clearcreek Twp. also lacks commercial development that can lessen the tax burden on homeowners, he added.

Since 2001, the service area’s population practically has doubled, while the department has continued to operate on existing levies and grants, officials said. The district has added two stations and staffs three crews around the clock.

Trustee Cathy Anspach, who voted against putting the levy on the ballot, said she wants the township to cut expenses first. For example, she advocated leaving open a fire captain position, filled recently, after two years.

“We have plenty of money in the fire budget. We just don’t spend it like we should,” Anspach said.

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