They’re not the sexiest issues on the Nov. 6 ballot. Not the kinds of things talked about in expensive campaign ads or made the subject of televised debates.
But in addition to choosing the next president of the United States and perhaps deciding the fate of a school levy, many folks headed to the polls will be confronted with questions about whether to provide new money for fixing their streets or maintaining staffing levels at their police or fire departments.
More than half of area communities surveyed about their levies said they made budget cuts before turning to voters.
“We have reached a very critical situation and need to make sure that all residents understand the impact of a failure could have on their community,” Norton fire Chief Mike Schultz, speaking about the city’s 4.6-mill levy request for fire and EMS service, said in an interview conducted several days before Thursday’s fire at the Father’s House Church.
Two previous attempts at the money failed, the last time in March by 112 votes.
Nine firefighters were laid off, the number of personnel per shift was cut in half, and the fire station now is closed and unmanned from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The levy, which would add $543,000 to the department’s $1.6 million budget, would restore the station to 24-hour service. Without the money, fire and EMS operations might have to be outsourced to private contractors, Schultz said.
In Canal Fulton, a 1-mill road levy would generate the $96,000-a-year share the city needs to contribute to two planned capital street-improvement projects.
The city and the county want to team up to resurface Locust and Portage streets (a $1.2 million project) and to improve the state Route 93 (Cherry Street) and Locust Street intersection, which has already received $2.1 million in federal funding.
Without the levy, officials would have to reconsider whether to go forward with the first project, and probably would cancel the second project, Finance Director James Goffe said.
In Jackson Township, officials are asking for a 2.2-mill road and park levy to offset budget cuts from the state. An old levy that has depreciated to just 0.73 mills would be allowed to expire. The new levy would generate nearly $3 million a year.
In recent years, the township has merged park, highway and maintenance departments and cut five positions, including department heads. The only room left to cut, officials said, is in service.
According to a township handout, losing the levy would mean “parks will be just basically mowed with little to no maintenance of athletic fields. The miles of roads paved per year will be reduced. Monies used for matching funds and joint highway projects will be gone. The yard waste drop off site heavily used by residents will be closed.”
In other communities, tightening belts has resulted in modest requests to keep the status quo.
Hiram Township in Portage County, for instance, is asking voters to replace an old 2-mill road levy with a new 2-mill levy. The $129,913 the new levy would generate in this community of 2,400 people would allow the township to keep up with its regular road maintenance program.
“We have been very responsible in spending the taxpayers’ dollars and are only asking for what is needed to maintain current levels with no extras,” township Fiscal Officer Stan Carlisle said.
For more details on all area communities seeking new road, police or fire levies, see the accompanying chart.
Beacon Journal correspondents Fred Cay and Ashley Wagner contributed to this report. Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.