NEWTON TOWNSHIP — The Pleasant Hill-Newton Township Joint Fire District will once again come before the voters of Pleasant Hill and Newton Township seeking approval for a tax levy for operating funds and a bond issue for providing a new fire/EMS building, equipment, payment of employees and emergency medical services (EMS).
On Sunday, March 8, from 4 to 6 p.m., the JFD will hold an open house, at 8 W. High St., at which board and fire/EMS members will be available to discuss levy info, financial reports, and tax numbers. Light refreshments will be provided.
According to Pleasant Hill-Newton Township JFD President Stan Fessler, after the defeat of the levy on the ballot in November, the JFD board reached out to the community to see what issues existed with the previous levy.
“One of the biggest issues was that the previous levy was permanent, meaning that once the new fire station was paid off, in approximately 28 years, the JFD would still be collecting all the revenue from the bond,” Fessler said.
Taking the information gathered from residents within the community, the board restructured what will appear on the ballot on March 17.
“We split the levy into two separate levies,” said EMS chief Adam Marchal. “One is an operations levy and the other one is a bond levy for a building.”
The building bond issue, Fessler said, will be for a set period of time, no longer than 28 years, and the operating levy will be used to address the main need to cover the EMS salaries of approximately $266,000 for round-the-clock coverage, along with providing and maintaining fire/EMS equipment.
The new property value reassessment, Fessler added, has allowed the JFD to reduce the net millage from 4.89- to 4.55-mills, with the bond issue millage set at 1.75 and the operating levy at 2.8-mills.
Paid part-time EMS staffing was initiated by the department in August 2015, and they were the last volunteer department in the county to begin paid EMS staffing, according to Marchal, but the JFD fire fighters are still volunteer.
“Trying to staff an EMS department with volunteer help was becoming unrealistic,” Fessler said. “We found ourselves unable to provide coverage on some days and had to rely on mutual aid from surrounding communities, which greatly increased our response times.”
According to Marchal, the JFD currently has 20 EMS staff members, of which 15 are cross trained in EMS and fire.
As for the building bond issue, Fessler said the current JFD facility is “stretched to the limits.”
“Our largest truck only has one to two inches of clearance to get out the door,” he said. “Newer trucks are too tall.”
In 2014, the JFD board hired Garmann Miller to perform a feasibility study on how to possibly expand the current building.
“The determination was that the current building was not viable and we needed to work toward a new structure and location,” Fessler said.
According to Marchal, the current firehouse was constructed in the 1950s and has two fire bays and EMS stations that offer limited garage door height and parking spaces. He said there is only one bathroom/locker room to be shared by males and females, no sleeping or living quarters, no meeting or training rooms, limited office space and no “standby power.”
In October of 2014, the JFD purchased 5.311 acres of land directly south of Dollar General, Fessler said. This centrally located parcel was on the recommendation list from the feasibility study done the same year.
“The purchase was made at that time because the land was available and our expectations were that we would eventually run a levy and wanted to have the prime location secured,” Fessler said.
To address questions regarding details about how the tax money would be used, Fessler provided a breakdown. As certified by the county auditor, he said, the tax evaluation for the JFD taxing district is $92,779,930, and the JFD is asking for a total of 4.55-mills for the bond issue and operating levy combined.
According to Fessler, the new fire house is estimated to cost $2,955,000. To pay this off in 28 years, the annual debt service at 3.73 percent is $162,515, which requires the 1.75-mill bond.
The $266,000, 2.8-mill, operating levy would provide 24/7 coverage for two people at an everage of $15 per hour.
As for homeowner costs, Fessler said, a $100,000 market value home has a tax value of $35,000, so the cost to the homeowner in this case would be $61.25 per year for the bond levy and $98 per year for the operating levy.
Therefore, the total cost for both operating levy and bond issue would be $159.25 per year or $13.27 per month, Fessler said.
To calculate your own costs, visit the Miami County Auditor website, at www.miamicountyauditor.org, and search for your property. Select the valuation tab and view the “Total Assessed (35%)” value and multiply this by 0.0045 (total millage) to get your cost of the new levies. Fessler stressed the importance of looking at the tax value of the home rather than the market value when calculated these costs.