PATASKALA, OH (WCMH) — Voters in the West Licking Joint Fire District are being asked to renew a 1.5 mill fire levy that first went into effect in 2003. Fire officials say the renewal is more than justified given the tremendous growth of the area.
Assistant Fire Chief Jack Trenish says when the levy was put on,” we did around 3,200 calls a year and we’re on pace this year to do 5,700 runs.”
Some of that increase is due to the growing populations and the thousands of new homes going up. But Etna Township has also seen massive new warehouse operations, most notably Amazon.
“In that general area, we’re in there, on average, at least once a day,” Trenish said.
The fire district can bill patients that require a transport to a hospital but Trenish says there’s no way to recover costs for false alarms or runs that don’t result in a transport.
Amazon’s deal with Licking County and JobsOhio includes a 15-year property tax abatement. The fire district budget relies on property taxes.
Fire District administrator Steve Little says the fire district was not invited to the table for those negotiations. “We would rather have been included on the front side so we could plan because we’re like any other business,” Little said. “We try to do a five-year plan, a ten-year plan and it impacts you if you don’t know up front.”
Little admits the fire district’s finances are in good shape even without property taxes Amazon and other abated developments.
Amazon has exceeded expectations with about 3,000 thousand employees hired and plans to grow to 4,000.
Etna Township Trustee John Carlisle says income tax collections from Amazon have nearly tripled initial estimates. “We are anticipating near 750 thousand dollars in annual revenue from Amazon,” Carlisle said.
The higher than anticipated income tax revenue from Amazon even allowed the township to pick up everyone’s trash bill for the fourth quarter of the year.
Carlisle said the benefits of economic development far outweigh any downside to property tax abatements. “We’re not opposed to tax abatements because the revenue that we’re receiving in the income tax is more than we would have received in property tax so it’s a win for the township,” Carlisle said.
Carlisle said he expects residents will support the fire levy renewal.
The levy costs homeowners about $45 for every $100,000 of assessed property valuation.