Voters in Springboro and Clearcreek Twp. on Tuesday doused the hopes of supporters of a continuing, additional 4.5 mill levy for fire protection and ambulance service, according to unofficial totals.
As the night wore on, the margin of victory narrowed, but election-night totals in Warren and Montgomery counties left no hope for passage when provisional ballots are tallied and final results are validated later this month.
Trustee Cathy Anspach, who voted against seeking the levy, said voters want the township to cut expenses before asking for more taxes.
“Everybody is grateful for the fire department. They just feel they should be more accountable for their spending,” Anspach said.
Even the trustees were divided, voting 2-1 to put Issue 3 on the ballot.
The levy was expected to raise about $4.4 million a year for the joint district, handling fire and EMS in the city and township.
On Tuesday, campaign signs advertised both sides.
“Help Us Help You. Yes to 3. To Protect Springboro and Clearcreek Township,” signs for the levy said.
Signs posted by the opposition just said, “Vote No On Levy.”
Early Tuesday, the Warren County Tea Party sent out an email describing the levy as “Government gone wild.”
Still the issue had prominent supporters, including Springboro Mayor John Agenbroad.
“The choice comes down to reducing services to fit the revenue or increase the funding to maintain our service,” Agenbroad, whose son is on the fire department, said in a letter to the editor.
Property owners in the township — and the city of Springboro — would have paid an additional $137.81 a year for every $100,000 in property valuation, according to the county auditor’s office.
Supporters pointed to a community survey backing the department and growth in the community.
The fire department projects budget deficits growing from $2 million this year to $2.5 million in 2014, but opponents noted a general fund balance of more than $13 million at the beginning of the year.
Since 2001, the service area’s population practically has doubled, while the department has continued to operate on existing levies and grants, officials said. The district has added two stations and staffs three crews around the clock. New trucks are needed, according to officials.
A loss in November will trigger reductions in service and slower response times, Fire Chief Bob Kidd said.
The vote reinforces the presence of anti-tax sentiments in the affluent community. The fire district covers an area similar to the school district, where voters have rejected five consecutive levies for new money.
The school board is expected to seek a levy renewal in November, on a ballot now also likely to include a fire levy, Kidd said.
“It’s a disappointment,” Kidd said.”We’ll give it one more shot in November and see what happens then.”