Fire Service Tops Ballot in Rittman, Ohio

Voters will face a 1.4-mill additional levy for fire services on the Nov. 2 ballot amid a loss of jobs in the city and declining income from the state.

The five-year levy, which would generate about $130,000 a year, would pay 36 volunteer firefighters, maintain gear and buy new equipment. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $21 a year.

Money from a 1.4-mill fire levy set to expire Jan. 1, 2006, would not be collected next year if the proposed levy passes, said City Manager Bob Kellogg. The current levy, which only can be used to buy fire equipment, generates about $98,000 a year, he said.

City officials believe the proposed levy would help to free up money for other general fund uses, Kellogg said.

The city would save about $30,000 a year in the general fund if it didn't have to pay an $8 an hour wage to firefighters and maintain equipment. About $15,000 still would be needed from city coffers for the department's $145,000 annual budget, Kellogg said.

``The levy will help the city and the firefighters,'' said Fire Chief Don Banfield.

Kellogg said the city has a hiring freeze and will not replace two employees who plan to retire this year.

He said Rittman lost about $20,000 a year in tax revenue when Chippewa Valley Bank merged with Wayne County National Bank in Wooster. An additional $45,000 a year was lost when Carustar eliminated 75 jobs.

Interest income from investments and revenue from estate taxes and the state's local government fund are down, he said.

Banfield said money not used for salaries would be saved to replace radios and pagers and to buy a new grass truck and turnout gear. The department goes on about 130 calls a year, he said.