MINSTER –Two separate three-mill 3-year requests to fund the same department, the Minster/Jackson Township Fire and EMS department, will be on the ballot Nov. 6.
At a public meeting recently, Citizens for a Safe Minster (CSM) members described why the two new levies, one for the village of Minster and another for unincorporated parts of the surrounding Jackson Township, will protect and improve the stability of the volunteer EMS and Fire services which serve residents and businesses.
Passage of the levies will result in approximately $90,000 for the township and $289,000 for the village each year and will cover funding shortfalls and burgeoning expenditures. The cost to a $100,000 home would be $105 annually.
Matt Purpus, CSM member, said that benefit of passage of the levy was “the comfort of having local, caring emergency service volunteers who know you and the area.”
He added that the cost for contracting outside emergency services would be more expensive.
“Mostly, they weren’t even interested because we are too small,” he added.
The additional income will address several safety concerns in regards to the fire department and the emergency service squads, according to Sara Corona, CSM treasurer.
One concern the improved funding would address is a shrinking number of volunteer emergency personnel, said Corona. “For example, in 2007 there were 38 certified members of the EMS squad” she said, “but In 2016 the number is down to 16.” She said one way to attract new volunteers is to offer on-call compensation, plus on-going training.” There is only one full-time paid employee of the fire and EMS departments.
Another concern is that fire department expenses are anticipated to rise from $155,695 in 2007 to $800,000 in 2019. Corona said that the National Fire Protection Association recommends replacement of turn-out gear and breathing apparatus in 2019 and one of the fire trucks is nearing its useful life. The EMS budget is expected to rise from $17,490 in 2007 to $89,000 in 2019.
Purpus, said the need for the levy is due to shrinking General Revenue funds in both Minster and Jackson township. He said the township general fund has gone from $81,852 in 2007 to $27,576 in 2017 and the village’s general fund sank from $525,236 in 2007 to $97,734 in 2017.
Shrinking state revenue sources have caused some of the declining funding. “For example, the state inheritance and personal property taxes were eliminated in 2007, with a combined annual loss of $221,000,” said Purpus. He added that State local government funding has decreased 93.5 percent and county local government funding went down 41.6 percent.
Corona said that prior to 2015, the funding for the EMS and Fire departments had taken up 40 percent of the general fund, with the remaining 60 percent going to capital improvements.
“Starting in 2015, 60 percent of the general fund is needed to cover ems/fire department costs” she explained. “This means less money for street resurfacing, infrastructure, park and building improvements,” she said.
Andrew Maurer, another CSM member, said that having a levy supporting fire and ems services is not unusual.
“In Auglaize County, only Buckland and Minster have no levy and among townships,” he said. “It’s only Salem and Jackson that are not using tax levies as a consistent method of covering expenses for fire and ems.”
Maurer also pointed out that the levy money will not cover 100% of the growing EMS and Fire budgets, with the General Fund of village and township still contributing money. “It is planned to re-evaluate the levy in three years,” he said, pointing out this is not a permanent levy.
Maurer offered a personal experience with the Minster/Jackson township emergency squad quick response when his father had a heart attack.
“They had him at the hospital in 20 minutes,” he said. “What is your safety worth?”