Lake Twp.: Fire levy rejected; what’s ‘palatable’ to residents?

Larry Limpf

News Editor

After Lake Township voters soundly rejected a request Tuesday for an additional 4.2 mills in property taxes for fire/EMS operations, township officials face finding another solution to staffing shortages in the fire department.
According to unofficial results, the levy fell by a wide margin: 2,471 against (63.7 percent) to 1,408 for (36.3) percent. Had it passed, the levy would have generated about $1.2 million annually and paid for the hiring of full-time personnel in the department.
“I’m not sure if the voters didn’t want to spend that amount of money or if we didn’t get the message out clearly enough; or if the situation in their opinion doesn’t warrant additional funding,” Mark Hummer, police chief/administrator, said. “One thing for sure is fire service has changed nationwide. Our demand for service isn’t going down and we thought this was the best course going forward; to go full-time. “
He said the township has not dropped out of a feasibility study of consolidating the township fire department with the departments in the cities of Rossford and Northwood.
“We agreed to put it on hold until after the election. But even if we join a fire district it is going to cost money. Fire service and EMS is going to full-time employees. These folks want full-time jobs,” Hummer said. “It was first a volunteer model that worked and we had a great volunteer department and still have some great volunteers. They became fewer and fewer and we went to a part-time model after LifeStar (EMS) left and we hired part-time paramedics because we could afford that as opposed to full-time employees with benefits. The competition for those part-time employees was strong because in this size community we were all doing the same thing. Then some agencies in Northwest Ohio started going full-time and hired our part-time employees and we ran into a shortage there.
“We will certainly sit down in the next days, weeks, and months and try to find a solution that is palatable and affordable to our citizens and provides the best level of service that we can.”
The township recently hired three part-time fire fighters and three part-time EMTs who will be on probation for one year, Richard Welling, a township trustee said.
Voters who rejected the levy request may have done so primarily for financial reasons, he said, noting property valuations in Wood County are rising and residents are waiting to see what their next property tax bills will be.
County auditor Matthew Oestreich recently announced that 2023 revaluation values have received state approval. Countywide, residential properties received an average increase of 24.3 percent.
While an increase in value does not necessarily compute to a comparable increase in tax, Welling said the trustees would likely wait until January before deciding whether or not to go back on the ballot.
“People I’ve talked with are really anxious about what their re-appraisals are going to be,” he said.
The additional levy would have almost doubled the millage township property owners are already paying for EMS and fire service.
They now pay:
-0.8-mill, continuing levy that generates about $133,268 annually for ambulance and EMS.
-2-mill, continuing levy that generates about $333,170 annually for fire and EMS.
-1-mill. continuing levy that generates about $254,467 for ambulance and EMS.
-1-mill, 5-year levy that generates about $236,658 for fire department operations.
Revenue is also received from EMS billing for patients transported to the hospital.
Welling said the township has grown to the point its population, commercial sector, and industrial base are comparable to that of a small city. As such, it’s outgrown a fire department staffed by part-time personnel.
“I understand it’s a financial issue with a lot of people. But we also have a duty to protect our residents,” he said.


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