By Kevin Kelley
At the Nov. 8 election, residents will be asked to approve the renewal of a 1-mill property tax to help fund the city’s fire department.
The tax costs property owners $23.73 for every $100,000 of valuation. The renewal is for another five years.
Five years ago, voters passed the renewal by a 72-28 percent margin.
Fire Chief Bud Williams said he appreciates the past support residents have given the tax.
Issue 54 must pass, Williams said, in order for his department to continue providing the level of services Fairview Park residents deserve and have come to expect.
“It is critically important to the efficient operations of the fire department,” Williams said of the levy.
A failure of the levy renewal, combined with decreases in property and income tax revenue and state funding, would have a devastating impact on the fire department, the fire chief said.
Mayor Eileen Patton emphasized that Issue 54 proposes a renewal of an existing tax, not a tax increase.
“This is a dedicated fund that can only be used within the fire department to help assist our firefighters-paramedics with department expenses and needed safety equipment,” Patton told West Life “Last year our well-trained, dedicated firefighters responded to 1,820 calls and nine fires. The passage of this levy will help ensure our firefighters to continue to protect and serve, as ‘life safety’ is always their ultimate goal.”
Patton’s opponent in the mayoral race, Richard Deem, also endorses the levy.
“It’s important for the entire city that the fire department is strong and able to do their jobs,” said Deem, a retired police officer who served 29 years with the Fairview Park department.
In 2010, the dedicated fire department tax brought in $335,389. That’s about 12 percent of the fire department’s $2.75 million annual budget, according to Finance Director Lisa Rocco.
A flier published by Local 1057 of the Fairview Park Firefighters to promote renewal of the tax noted that the money raised will go toward purchasing and maintaining firefighting equipment and firefighter salaries.
“This levy will promote our mission by maintaining a first-class, highly trained fire department,” states the union flier, which firefighters plan to deliver to every Fairview Park household.
The tax has been in place since 1975.
Two years ago, a proposed city charter amendment that would have made the fire levy permanent was narrowly defeated by voters, 51.5 percent to 48.5. The proposal would have made the tax a charter levy, meaning it would not be subject to House Bill 920, an anti-inflationary measure that reduces the revenue each year. This would have meant a slight increase in the tax paid by homeowners.
Bill Hronek, who chaired the nine-member committee that proposed charter amendments, at the time attributed the defeat to the economic recession.