COVINGTON — Covington residents approved a couple of issues this election, one with the goal of raising funds for Covington Fire and Rescue, and the other one focusing on helping residents save money on utility bills.
Voters passed the 2.5-mill tax levy for Covington Fire and Rescue 61.10 percent to 38.90 percent — or 699 votes for it and 445 votes against it — according to unofficial results.
The 2.5-mill tax levy will provide a dedicated revenue stream solely for the village’s fire and emergency medical services (EMS). The levy will be for five years. The county auditor certified that the total current tax valuation of the village is $39,738,600. The levy will generate approximately $99,346 annually if the current tax valuation stays the same.
Before Tuesday’s election, the village funded its fire and EMS services through its general fund. Village administrator Mike Busse previously explained that revenue streams to the general fund have gone down since the elimination of local government funds from the state and the elimination of inheritance taxes.
Covington Fire and Rescue is also going to 24-hour staffing. With staff being on station, the response time is around two minutes and 12 seconds. With volunteers responding from their homes, the response time is around six minutes and 11 seconds. Volunteers are currently putting in around 60 hours per week for Covington Fire and Rescue, mostly in the evenings and overnight.
Covington Fire and Rescue also has some aging equipment in need of replacing, including a 20-year-old ambulance. The other ambulance is seven years old, and the village wants to begin setting aside funds for its replacement. Fire equipment, such as the replacement of gear, hoses, and other equipment, is also an annual and ongoing expense to the village.
This issue was not unique to Covington. The city of Piqua faced the same issue November 2014, when they passed a safety services levy, which was an income tax increase of 0.25 percent, with the funds going solely to Piqua’s police and fire departments.
Covington and Newberry Township residents also approved participating in electric and gas aggregation programs.
In Covington, the electric aggregation program passed 68.66 percent to 31.34 percent, or 756 votes for it and 345 votes against it. The gas aggregation program passed 68.57 percent to 31.43 percent, or 755 votes for it and 346 against it.
In the unincorporated Newberry Township, the electric aggregation program passed 55.88 percent 44.12 percent, or 675 votes for it and 533 votes against. The gas aggregation program passed 54.47 percent to 45.53 percent, or 652 votes for it and 545 votes against it.
These are all unofficial results.
The aggregation programs will allow the village of Covington and the unincorporated Newberry Township to come together to negotiate for electric and gas rates as a community instead of doing so as an individual. The residents will be grouped together with a dozen other communities to increase their buying power.
AGE is the consultant and broker for the village of Covington and the unincorporated areas of Newberry Township’s possible aggregation programs.
Residents will not be required to take part in the aggregation programs. They will have the option to opt out of the program or opt back in with no fees that AGE would charge.
The electric and/or gas rates will be negotiated for a term of two or three years. The rates that AGE will negotiate for the village through this aggregation program would be fixed for that period of time and would not increase or decrease with the changes in the market.
If residents decide to participate, their bills will also continue to come in the same format now, such as through DP&L for electric bills. Budget billing will also still be available.
Reach Sam Wildow at [email protected] or (937) 451-3336