Washington Twp. officials said they will ask voters this spring to approve a continuous 2.85-mill levy that they say will enable the fire department to address a shortage of firefighters and an increasing number of calls for service.
A new fire station also is planned.
If approved, the levy would generate about $5.26 million in the first year. Homeowners would pay $99.75 per year for every $100,000 of their home’s value — equivalent to $8.31 per month.
The fire department currently is funded with one 4.65-mill renewal levy and one 1.5-mill continuous levy that together cost $169 annually for every $100,000 of home value.
Costs for a full-time firefighter costs more than twice as much as a part-time firefighter. Salary, medical benefits and earned time off all contribute to the difference, according to Trustee President Dale Berry.
“Hiring additional full-time firefighters is a necessity if we are to maintain service levels,” Berry said.
He said the part-time shortage has occurred even as the number of fire and emergency medical runs has climbed — from 6,060 in 2012 to 7,751 in 2018. Much of the increase is fueled by new construction. Throughout Centerville/Washington Township, 629 homes, 865 apartment units and 368 senior living units were either constructed in 2018 or are in the planning stage.
The levy also will enable the township to replace the department’s oldest fire station, Station 41 at 163 Maple Avenue. The cost of replacing the station is estimated at $3.7 million.
“Station 41 is 50 years old and too small to support adequate staffing and modern apparatus,” said Scott Kujawa, incoming fire chief. “Because the property it sits on does not provide room for expansion, we’ll be moving it to a new location.”
Township Administrator Jesse Lightle said that to address the shortage of part-time staff, it’s estimated that a total of 78 full-time positions are required.
The levy will enable the department to reach that level by paying for 12 additional firefighters that were hired in 2018 and adding 30 more full-time positions at an estimated annual net cost of $4.19 million. If the levy does not pass, the fire fund balance will drop to $2.17 million in 2022 and reach a negative balance by 2023.
“In an effort to attract part-time firefighters, the department in recent years has waged an ongoing recruitment and retention campaign, including a signing bonus that is distributed over the first year of employment,” Lightle said. “But like other departments throughout Ohio, we’ve lost more part-time firefighters than we’ve been able to hire because many found full-time employment with other fire departments.”
Washington Twp. provides fire and EMS services for Centerville/Washington Twp., and all residents are eligible to vote on the levy, Lightle said.