This is in spite of voter rejection of recent levies in several townships to cover these costs.
One of the sticking points in the discussions deals with the 911 Levy as approved over several elections by voters.
Originally, this levy was supposed to cover the cost of dispatching. From an October 20, 1996 Blade article, "LEVY PUTS 911 SYSTEM - DESIGNED TO SAVE LIVES - AT RISK 911":
But the $5 million system - which was set up to answer calls with the speed of a computer - is on trial.
Weary of higher taxes and moved by union opposition, voters turned down a 0.9-mill levy in March.
Now, they will decide whether to approve a 0.7-mill tax to keep it alive for the next five years.
The tax would raise $4 million a year to run the system and make improvements.
Those include ``breaking up'' the downtown 911 station into six smaller centers to be scattered across the county to speed response times.
``We're talking about taking 911 to the next level - and bringing it into the next century,'' said Sandy Isenberg, president of the Lucas County commissioners.
But so far, there's no contingency plan to keep the phones ringing at 911 if the levy fails.
If it goes down, there wouldn't be any money to pay the 911 operators and their supervisors past Dec. 31.
``No one's going to be here to answer the phone,'' said Doug Kemp, data manager for 911 .
It is clear from this report that call-takers and dispatchers are covered by the cost of the levy.
From the same article:
Here's a snapshot of what the new levy would do:
* It would bring 911 calls closer to home.
As it now exists, if a frantic Sylvania mother dials 911 for help because her child has fallen down the steps, the call goes to the 911 center at 2144 Monroe St., in Toledo.
Then, the message is sent via computer to a dispatch center in Sylvania. From there, a rescue vehicle is sent to the scene.
Under the new plan, the call would go directly to Sylvania, eliminating the middleman in Toledo, and allowing the local operator to immediately send an ambulance. System officials hope to shave the response time by up to 45 seconds.
``In life-threatening situations, seconds can mean everything,'' said Tom Bodi, director of the 911 system.
This obviously describes dispatching as part of the services provided by the levy.
The 1996 levy included funds for upgrading the equipment, as county officials currently claim as the purpose of the levy. But news reports also show that the funding of the entire system was at risk, including dispatching, if the levy failed.
But just in case there was any doubt, a February 23, 1997 Blade article, "9-1-1 SPELLS QUICK HELP," further clarifies what the system does:
When a call comes in to 911 , an operator obtains necessary information from the caller, decides the priority of the call, then transfers the call by computer to the appropriate emergency dispatch system. Once the local dispatcher receives the emergency request - which takes just seconds after 911 operators obtain the needed information - a police, fire, or rescue crew is sent to respond to the call.
But changes to the system resulted in localized call centers run by the various municipalities. However, as reported in May of 1997, "Each community is to receive about $21,000 annually to help pay for operator salaries...", meaning that levy monies were still paying for dispatching.
In September, 1997, when the suburban call centers went on line, The Blade reported:
The decentralization of the main dispatch center is paid for by a five-year, 0.7-mill levy approved in November.
The levy raises about $4 million annually.
Subsequent reports in the paper over the next two years referenced the point that the suburbs took over paying 911 dispatchers in their own communities. But those news stories fail to mention that the county continued to subsidize those salaries with levy money. It's also important to note that the Lucas County Sheriff dispatchers, which service the townships, were NOT part of the decentralization.
In 1999, the Lucas County Commissioners decided to upgrade and expand the Emergency Services Center on Monroe Street to "put Toledo police call takers and Toledo fire department and Lucas County dispatchers under one roof on the same floor."
In 2000, officials began discussions of the levy's renewal scheduled for 2001. Because of a provision in state law, this renewal was treated as a 'new' levy, taxed at the current property values and generating a bit more money as a result. News reports from 2001 show that the levy would be used to operate and maintain the 911 system. The additional funding would go toward a countywide communications system for public safety personnel. That levy was approved by voters.
In 2006, the levy was up for renewal, but officials wanted a replacement levy - the same millage charged against current property values, resulting in more money for the county. As explained at the time, the funds would continue to support the maintenance and operation of the 911 system and pay for enhanced inter-agency communications among first responders. That levy was also approved by the voters.
So what does this really mean? Over the years, the levies have been advertised as funding the call-takers and dispatchers as well as the maintenance and operation of the system. Even when the county decentralized the dispatching to the suburban cities, they subsidized the salaries of the workers. However, the townships continued to receive dispatching through the Sheriff's dispatchers, funded by levy dollars.
But with time comes increased costs in wages and benefits, along with everything else. Through the years, the funding did not keep up with the costs. New equipment, necessary for today's needs, was purchased and had to be maintained. Which is why the county finds itself in a position of asking - rather, demanding - funds from the townships to pay for costs the levy no longer covers because of decisions made by those same county politicians.
The elected officials have known for years that the increased personnel costs they approved with their votes on union contracts would mean less money for other purposes. With a finite set of money from the levy, the scenario of needing additional money is a no-brainer and easy to predict.
So now the county wants even more funds from certain jurisdictions to cover increased costs the county is responsible for. The Commissioners and Sheriff know that a levy request for such things probably wouldn't go over well. Increasing a levy to cover increased personnel costs when many who would pay the levy haven't seen pay increases or might not even have a job anymore is, well...dumb.
So rather than go after all county residents, they've decided to go after the townships, extorting cash for promised safety.
The townships are right to raise the question of what, exactly, the levy was supposed to pay for versus what it's actually covering. They've got valid reasons to believe dispatching is a service they're already paying for and the township trustees owe it to their taxpayers to ensure they are not double-taxed.
Too bad the Commissioners and Sheriff don't realize the same thing, especially knowing that township residents are their constituents as well.