I would like to address the recent article entitled "Fire district files suit against former clerk" published on October 30, 2012 and written by Christopher Bobby.
The intent of the article was to publicize a recent action taken by the Board of the Newton Falls Joint Fire District, yet half the piece contained information about Newton Township and comments from me taken by reporter Ashley Newman several weeks before that must be clarified. There was no mention in the article of a link between the former clerk of the fire district and the former township fiscal officer.
Newton Township has a fire levy on the ballot. The reasoning comes down to simple math. The current levy was initiated in 1979, made permanent in 1984, and generates about $14,000 for fire protection for the residents of Newton Township. In contrast, the contract that Newton Township has with the Joint Fire District (which is a separate entity), is about $54,000 per year at this time. The only resource the township has to make up the (app.) $40,000 is its general fund which has had $72,000 cut by the state to its falling budget since 2010. Additional cuts are anticipated in the near future.
Community crisis is something we must plan for, insuring that we have equipment in good repair and dedicated highly trained responders. Newton Township has, in good faith, met financial obligations with the Fire District for many years to provide the fire services its residents have come to expect. However, the current method of payment from the general fund cannot continue, and the township must follow statutes for the services it is mandated to provide which include maintenance of roads, bridges and cemeteries. Fire protection is a privilege. Therefore, a vote has been put before township residents requesting funding for fire and EMT services in line with cost of services for current times and planning for the next decade.
Alluding to the initial article, portions of my statements to Mr. Newman, were certainly not clear, and definitely not necessary when no link was provided in the article between the two circumstances. My published comments were from a combination of responses to questions directed at the township's unauditable status, fiscal caution, and deficit balances based on the audit period of 2010 and 2011.
I appreciate the opportunity to clarify the link between the fire district and township finances. Newton Township is developing a plan with the best interest of its residents at heart and remains positive looking toward the future.
Fiscal Officer (2012-2016)