The German Township Trustees agreed to place 1.3 mills for fire protection on the Tuesday, May 8 primary election ballot.
The trustees held what were technically two separate meetings, Monday, Jan. 15, so they could approve all of the necessary paperwork to get the measure on the ballot.
The deadline to get levy requests on the ballot is Wednesday, Feb. 7.
Trustees discussed various options with Brett Kolb, Fulton County auditor, who attended the meeting, which began at 7:30 am.
One option was a two-mill levy, part of an agreement between the 2017 trustees and the village of Archbold.
As part of that agreement, the township would not collect money from the two current township fire levies of one-half (0.5) and six-tenths (0.6) mills. Together, the two have an effective rate of one mill.
State law prohibits property tax levies from growing in revenue collected as property values appreciate.
To prevent that growth in revenue, the millage charged to property owners on the tax bills is reduced. The reduced rate is known as the effective millage.
While the two fire levies total 1.1 mills, the effective, or reduced, millage rate is about one mill for both.
The 2017 trustees pulled the two-mill levy off the ballot days before the Nov. 7, 2017 general election.
Another option was to pass the two-mill levy, but leave the two current levies on the books.
Kolb explained that the collection of the two older levies could be suspended– in other words, they would remain on the books.
They could be collected if there was an emergency need, or if the “main” levy didn’t raise enough money.
At least one other township uses that technique, he said.
Andy Brodbeck, a township trustee, suggested continuing to collect the 0.5-and 0.6-mill levies, along with a new levy of up to 1.3 mills.
Brodbeck said adding 1.3 mills to two older levies may be easier to communicate to voters than a two-mill levy, with non-collection of the older levies.
Kolb said there is another reason to continue the older levies.
In the past, state law allowed counties to reduce taxes on owner-occupied properties by 12.5%– one 10.5% reduction and one 2% reduction.
Recently, the state legislature removed the reductions for new levies and levies that are replaced, but the reductions remain in place for older levies that are renewed.
Kolb said for one mill, the savings can be around 92 cents.
That may not seem like a lot, but “a dollar is a dollar,” Kolb said.
He said he is encouraging as many political subdivisions as possible to renew their old levies.
As the taxpayer goes through his or her property tax bill, savings of $1, $2, $5 add up, “and as I tell my kids, pretty soon, you’ve got folding money, not pocket change.”
Another advantage is if voters approve new millage in May, the expiration dates of the three fire levies would be staggered, so they would need to be renewed in separate years.
During the meeting, it was stated the two current fire protection levies raise about $183,000.
In the past, the money has been set aside to purchase, repair, or replace equipment. “Equipment” includes everything from fire hoses to fire trucks.
It costs about $238,500 per year to operate the fire department, a cost that has been borne by the village. That includes building and maintaining the fire stations, paying utility bills, and the cost of paying department personnel.
That results in a total budget of about $421,500 per year to operate the fire department.
A 1.3-mill levy is estimated to generate about $245,000; that, plus the $183,000 from the current township levies, results in a total collection of $428,000, enough to cover fire department expenses with a $6,500 “cushion.”
While German Township will collect all of the revenue from the levies, Archbold will continue to manage the day-to-day operations of the department.
The trustees will make a lump-sum payment of $236,240, which is the yearly village share of operating the department minus a $2,260 payment from the Franklin Township Trustees.
AFD provides fire protection services to portions of Franklin Township.
Donna Dettling, Archbold village administrator, attended the meeting and participated in the discussions.
Under the two-mill levy plan she developed, council agreed to not collect seventenths (.7) mill of the 3.3- mill operating levy collected by the village.
It was the money paid by the village that started the whole “inequity” issue between township and village officials.
Residents of German Township outside the Archbold village limits were only paying the 1.1 mills of the township levies.
Village residents were paying the same 1.1 mills, plus the additional money from the village operating budget.
The new levy plan approved by the trustees will be collected from all property owners, both inside the village limits and out.
Dettling said the council finance committee “needs to have a conversation” about non-collecting the seventenths portion of the operating levy.
She anticipates the conversation will take place in mid-February.
Dettling said now that village and township officials are working together on funding the fire department, the two groups will approach the Franklin Township trustees about renegotiating that township’s fire protection agreement.
Joe Short, new township trustee, was absent from the meeting.
The next meeting of the German Township Trustees is Monday, Jan. 22, 7:30 am, in the township building.– David Pugh