Hillsboro City Council heard a first reading Monday evening on legislation allowing the city to join the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District as a member.
Councilman Dick Donley, who served as council president pro tempore in absence of Lee Koogler, introduced the resolution near the end of council’s December meeting after a brief recess, during which he consulted with Hillsboro Law Director Fred Beery apparently in reference to the resolution.
No discussion was heard from council or the public on the matter.
The idea of the city joining Paint Creek as a member rather than continuing to utilize its services on a contract basis has been a contentious issue for the past few council meetings, largely due to the possibility of a property tax increase that would have to be implemented to pay for the district’s services.
Since January 2014, the city has had a contractual relationship with Paint Creek for coverage of Hillsboro for about $570,000 a year, paid from the city’s General Fund.
As reported by The Times-Gazette, if the city joins Paint Creek as a member, a 5.5-mill levy would be imposed to pay for fire and EMS, equating to about $152 annually per $100,000 valuation for residential properties and $192 annually per $100,000 valuation for commercial properties.
If the city joins as a member, it will have a vote on the board.
If the resolution is not approved, the contract – which expires at the end of the year – will be renegotiated, and Koogler and Donley have both said the cost is unlikely to change.
Donley said at a previous meeting that joining the district as a member has “its good points and bad points.”
Donley said last month that he was “leaning toward the contract,” and Councilman Bill Alexander agreed, saying the property tax increase would be too much of a burden for elderly, property-owning taxpayers.
Councilman Justin Harsha previously said if it comes to a vote, he will vote against the city joining the district, citing the property tax increase as a major drawback.
A number of citizens have spoken out against the city joining Paint Creek, largely due to tax concerns.
In other business, council approved and adopted the city’s operating budget for 2018, suspending the three-reading rule and passing the legislation as an emergency.
Donley said the Finance Committee met on Friday, Dec. 7 and Monday, Dec. 11 to discuss the budget, and came out of deliberations with a budget that closely resembles the 2017 operating budget.
Donley, who serves as chairman of the committee, said he was pleased with the outcome.
“I think that the budget that is being presented at council tonight is very well-prepared,” he said. “Speaking with the administration and the department heads that were there (at committee meetings), I think they’re satisfied with the way the budget is presented.”
Finance committee members Bill Alexander and Ann Morris both said the budget was satisfactory.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.