AVON LAKE — If Avon Lake fails to pass a 2-mill replacement paramedic levy in November, the city could face cuts in all of its departments.
Issue 10 adds 0.75-mills to an existing 1.25-mill levy and would generate almost $1.66 million a year for the fire department.
The levy pays for eight paramedics, a dispatcher and equipment for the fire department’s emergency medical services.
The levy previously lost by six votes in the August election.
Mayor Greg Zilka said some misconceptions likely hurt the August campaign, as some voters believed the levy added 2-mills to the existing 1.25-mill levy rather than 0.75-mills.
The fire department costs roughly $4 million per year to operate, the new levy would pay for $1.6 million of the budget with the remaining $2.4 million coming from the city’s general fund.
Roughly $390,000 of the department’s funding comes from billing insurance when a person utilizes the city’s ambulance service, he said.
All of the department’s firefighters are paramedics, Zilka said.
The fire department has operated at a deficit the past four years as the current 1.25-mill levy generates only $1.1 million.
The difference was made up from reserves that have been drained, prompting the city to ask for the increased millage, Zilka said. For the owner of a home valued at $100,000, the replacement levy would cost $61.25 a year, up from the existing cost of $38.28 a year, according to the city figures. Continued…
However, if the levy fails Nov. 6, the city plans to cut programs and personnel from other departments in order to keep the fire department operating at an acceptable level. Too many cuts in the fire department would also cause overtime costs to skyrocket and the city would end up paying high costs to keep the department operational 24-hours a day, said Zilka. Seventy-eight percent of department’s calls are for medic services.
“It has to be available every hour of the day,” he said. “We’re forced to make cut backs if it fails and we’re forced to make those cuts in other departments.”
Four firefighters would be eliminated from the fire department to find a balance between the costs of overtime and salaries, Zilka said.
“The most cost effective scenario would be to lay off four,” he said.
In addition, the last two hires in the service department would be laid off, as well as five police dispatchers and a secretary, he said. A police officer who recently retired also will not be replaced.
The cuts include eliminating the Safety Town program, the Greenbox program, grant funding to sports, the city’s share of a school resource officer’s salary, and a Dial-A-Bus service for the elderly and crossing guards.
The Dial-A-Bus program gives the elderly, particularly those without family, a reliable transportation system.
The city’s leaf pickup program would also change to require residents bag leaves in a brown bag so they could be picked up by the city’s trash service, he said. Currently, residents can rake their leaves to the curb for pick up.
Zilka said the city has been going door-to-door and so far residents seem to be in favor of the increase.
“The amount we are requesting is one that is reasonable considering how important this is to the safety of the residents,” he said.