PERRY TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WDTN) – Perry Township residents will soon have to make a decision whether to approve a 2.5 mill fire and EMS levy on November’s ballot.
The rural township of approximately 6,000 people does not have a fire department of its own, relying on the City of Brookville and the Village of New Lebanon to provide residents and landowners with fire and EMS services. Mindi Wynne, president of the board of trustees for Perry Township said those services are vital to residents and landowners.
“The community itself is small, but because we don’t have hydrants —we have wells — because of water shuttles, because of the equipment that would need to come out for barn fires and things like that, there is a significant number of people that are impacted by the services that the fire department will provide,” she said.
The levy will be used only for capital improvements, including building updates, replacement of decades-old vehicles and purchasing other necessary equipment.
“Those are expenses that the fire departments incur on a regular basis, and in order to get the services that we need, we want to make sure those fire departments have what they need,” said Wynne.
Bringing matters into perspective for voters, Wynne explained that costs for fire departments generally rise between three and five percent every year. However, municipal manger for New Lebanon, Glena Madden, said that increase has gradually gotten more steep, particularly following the pandemic. Fire chief for Brookville Department, Ronald Fletcher, added in a council meeting Tuesday evening that the city has felt the financial burden of those rising expenses.
“[In] previous contracts, previous relationships, the fire departments and the municipalities have just been willing to do it for whatever money comes in,” he said. “And so if lots of folks paid their taxes and there was not a lot of delinquencies and everything was great — there was more money. If there was a downturn in the economy, then there was also a downturn in the money that was coming in and available for fire and EMS. So we’re to the point now in Brookville where the general fund for the city actually has to make up about 22 percent of the cost of the fire department.”
Wynne added while she understands some residents may not be looking forward to paying more in taxes, both fire departments will still need to be paid from Perry Township’s general fund, potentially straining the city’s finances even further.
“Our Township is not flourished enough to just dole that money out of our general account,” she said. “We hope to be someday, but we have had some financial struggles. We’ve been working on overcoming the struggles, but this is not a good time to have to take money out of our funds to put towards a fire and EMS services. We really need the help of the citizens to get back to where the township needs to be by getting this levy passed.”
To hear more about the levy from Tuesday’s council meeting, click here.