At the Gambier Village Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 5, Council members voted unanimously to approve a statement of support for a proposed property levy that will provide short-term aid to the College Township Fire Department. This vote will not affect the levy itself, but is simply an endorsement by the members of the Village Council.
In recent years, the Department has struggled to keep up with budgetary deficits, which have left the station increasingly stretched in terms of both funding and personnel. The levy would only be, as Councilmember Betsy Heer pointed out during the meeting, a “stop-gap measure” that would keep the Fire Department from closing its doors until an effective solution can be reached between the Village, Township and Kenyon.
This levy would provide vital financial aid, according to Councilmember Elizabeth Forman, because a large shortfall in the Department budget will become noticeable as early as next year. “We would be in danger of having fire and [Emergency Medical Services] close to 15 minutes away from us,” Forman said.
The levy will provide funding to the Department through an increase in the millage rate, which reflects the amount of tax due for each $1,000 of a property’s value. Each mill generates anywhere from $28,000 to $32,000 in revenue. The levy proposes an increase of six mills, which will apply to property owners within the Village and the Township, excluding exempt properties owned by the College.
Looking to the immediate future of emergency response in Gambier, various meeting attendees, including College Township Trustee Doug McLarnan, put aside their personal reservations about a property tax increase. “For me, [the new levy] is about $500 on my property. But I’ll tell you what — if there is no fire department here, it’s more than $500 on my insurance bill,” said McLarnan.
However, just as the leaders of the Fire Department made clear, Forman noted during the meeting that representatives of each party will “have to figure out a way to pay for some of our public goods, not only on property [taxes],” since repeated millage rate increases would not be sustainable.
At the meeting, Forman introduced a committee that will investigate ways to create new revenue streams for the Fire Department. According to Forman, the committee will carry out this work over the next four to five months.
Councilmembers remained steadfast in their support for a temporary solution. “There’s not a lot more important than protecting people’s lives,” said Councilmember Phil Brooks.
Should the proposal pass on Election Day, the levy will come into effect in January of 2021.