Sparks Fly Over Fire Budget in Sylvania Township - Toledo News Now, Breaking News, Weather, Sports, Toledo

Sparks Fly Over Fire Budget in Sylvania Township

SYLVANIA TOWNSHIP -- Things got heated when Sylvania Township trustees met Tuesday night to discuss their budget problems. The problem? Two of the three trustees don't want to attack their $2.4 million deficit with a tax hike -- but the third does.

And here's a twist: one of the trustees who's against boosting taxes admits that it may be necessary as both time and money are running out. Other than layoffs, a levy appears to be the only option for now.

Trustee Carol Contrada says a maintenance levy is the way to go -- but just last year Township voters turned down fire levies earmarked for building and expanding. But that was then and this is now -- when the issue is something different.

"The community has not had an opportunity to say whether they want to maintain their services," Contrada said.

Trustee Pam Hanley, who doesn't like the idea of raising taxes, said, "It's very typical for politicians and governments to look at ways to take more money and more money."

Voters turned down two fire levies in May of 2005.  One would have paid for a new fire station and a realignment of the department, and the other would have paid operating expenses.  The levies were turned down by a 7-1 margin.

In its proposed fire budget, the department wants to add three positions to help staffing.  Trustee Dee Dee Liedel says a big problem is with the firefighters' contract. She says, "Eighty-five percent of our fire calls are EMS -- and yet we staff, pay and schedule as though it was a fire department."

Liedel also says the current contract was negotiated by the last board, but the current board had to sign it to avoid labor violations.

One thing the trustees do agree on is this: they want the union to come back to the negotiating table. Union leadership says it will -- but they say firefighters already made concessions in pay, health care, and personnel.

Firefighters Union President Chris Nye says, "Our wage package is not out of line with anybody else's wage package."

Trustees have asked the Township administrator to come back Tuesday with a budget composed under three different options:

  • Closing Fire Station No. 1, laying off nine firefighters, and addressing some capital issues.
  • Implementing a 1.5 mill levy.
  • Implementing a 2.5 mill levy.

The closure of Station 1 would leave downtown Sylvania without its own fire station.  Some say that would increase response times in the city, and leave residents in danger.

If cutbacks are part of the solution, they'd likely start the first of the year.

Trustees could vote on the matter as early as Tuesday.

Posted by PJS