Champaign County community leaders considering a proposed new fire district offered the general consensus that now is not the time for it.
“It’s unaffordable for us at this point in time,” Mechanicsburg Mayor Greg Kimball said last week. “Unless there is tangible benefit (residents) can see, they won’t want to pay extra taxes for it.”
Last year Urbana Twp., Goshen Twp., Salem Twp., Union Twp., and Mechanicsburg agreed to pay $20,000 to the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association to study the creation of a new fire district. Costs for services are rising in Champaign County and statewide, said Matt DeTemple, executive director of the Ohio Township Association.
The association created a lengthy report with different options for the county, but all options involved raising taxes. Most of the townships currently tax 4 mills for fire and EMS services. Most proposed plans would raise the property tax to 5.5 or 6.5 mills.
“Changing the system was going to increase their fire millage, and they didn’t think the community was going to accept that,” Urbana Township Trustee Lewis Terry said.
Urbana Township currently gets fire and EMS services from the city of Urbana. Those costs have risen from $67,000 in 2010 to $214,000 in 2014.
Kimball would like to have the Champaign County commissioners get involved in the issue.
The city uses income taxes to support fire and EMS services, while townships use property taxes.
“I think fire and EMS services need to be looked at a higher level of government to bring some symmetry to what they are doing, because every department operates independent from the rest of them,” Kimball said. “I would like the county commissioners get actively involved in this and look at doing a countywide EMS service.”
The fire department’s representatives tentatively planned a public forum to discuss the results of the fire district study and get community input on fire and EMS services.