We wrote yesterday about the Request For Proposal put out by Sycamore Township, near Cincinnati Ohio, for private companies to take over their fire and EMS services.
According to a video (see end of post) released by Township Trustee Tom Weidman at the beginning of the process, the Township’s financial problems can be tied directly to Kasich’s budget. Local officials were shocked and amazed when Kasich and the legislature “abruptly ended” the “important source of income” from the Local Government Fund, the Tangible Personal Property Tax and the Estate Tax.
Numbers presented by Mr. Weidman show that Sycamore Township is losing 25% of their total budget – or over half of their police and fire budget – because of Kasich’s budget and tax cuts.
Weidman claims replacing the lost revenue would require the city to pass an 8 mill levy which, to be fair, does seem rather large. 8 mills would add an additional .8% to residents’ property taxes, costing each homeowner a few hundred dollars more per year based on each $100k of home value. It’s certainly larger than many levies in recent memory. However, with no sign of relief coming from Kasich and the State, it’s likely larger levies like this will become the norm.
For example, Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District in Cuyahoga County just passed a 7.9 mill levy with a vote of 1173-908. It was one of the 75% of school levies that passed in the recent election – a percentage much higher than we’ve seen in recent years.
Voters have shown they will show up at the polls and vote for the levies when they understand the level of cuts being made by the state and the horrible financial situation of their schools. It seems reasonable to expect they would do the same thing for public safety services.
So doesn’t it also seem reasonable to ask voters if they are willing to help fund the services that protect them and their families before jumping on the privatization bandwagon? Especially when you consider that the standards to which current fire and EMS services are held would not be required of the new, private contractor?
According to Jack Reall, President of Columbus Firefighters Union IAFF 67, “the biggest issue with the bids is that they are not requiring them to meet nationally accepted fire department standards” from the The National Fire Protection Association which “sets standards for everything fire related.”
In his video, Weidman attempted to get around this issue by claiming private companies were not the only ones who could be selected. “This is not a move to privatize our fire and EMS services,” says Weidman. “The proposal is open to all, both public fire departments and private companies.”
Today was the deadline for responses to the RFP and about an hour ago the four submitted responses were made available. It turns out there were no submissions from public fire departments. Only private companies have made offers. The companies included CGH Global, Public Safety Services Inc., Community EMS and BGI Staffing. Stay tuned: we’ll do a more thorough analysis of the companies and their offers in an upcoming post.
For now, I will give Weidman some credit for at least coming forward and explaining to Sycamore’s residents that the people to blame for this crisis are Kasich and his cronies in the legislature. But his claims that this is not a move to privatize the Township’s fire and EMS services are very difficult to believe and, in my opinion, almost guaranteed to be untrue.
Regardless of the political or ideological motivation of the township’s trustees, it’s important to recognize a simple fact: if for-profit companies take over Sycamore Township’s fire and EMS services, the companies will be making money at the expense of public safety. According to Jack Reall, “These places are playing the odds and the for profit companies are getting rich while providing very little protection.”
After the hard-fought battle to defeat SB5/Issue2, Sycamore’s decision to eschew the levy option in favor of privatization comes across as nothing more than a back door way of implementing the Ohio Republican Party’s anti-union agenda that 62% of Ohioans voted against last November.
Tonight, Plunderbund stands with the hard working public servants protecting the residents of Sycamore Township. And we hope our readers do too.
Here’s the original video from Township Trustee Weidman: