OAKWOOD, Ohio - It would cost Oakwood almost as much to have the city of Kettering provide its fire department and emergency medical services on a contract basis as it does for the city to operate its own department.
That was the outcome of an estimate Kettering submitted Nov. 1 at the request of Oak-wood city officials, who are looking for ways to reduce local government expenses due to a loss of annual revenue that will reach $3 million 2013.
At 40 percent, public safety services represent the largest expense in the city budget.
Costs would be higher in a scenario including a Kettering-supplied fire and EMS, with a stand-alone Oakwood Police Department. The city presently has a combined police, fire and EMS force whose members are cross-trained in all areas.
In a memo, Kettering city manager Mark Schwieterman said the "preliminary draft" was intended for use "in making a decision on whether or not to continue discussions on what it would cost to provide a full-service fire and EMS-based delivery system to meet Oak-wood's needs."
Most of Oakwood's $3 million shortfall will stem from the discontinuance of the Ohio estate tax. But further losses may be coming.
Mayor Bill Duncan said "the $3 million problem" could balloon to $3.5 million as the result of a bill recently introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives to create uniformity in how more than 600 communities in the state charge and collect income tax.
"We think it would cost Oak-wood between $400,000 and $500,000 a year more," Dun-can said.
Oakwood City Manager Norbert Klopsch, who said Kettering would utilize Oakwood's current fire and EMS facility on Park Avenue under the proposal, said the estimate "shows that their costs are no different than ours. There would be downsides. We would lose some of our current advantages of personnel cross training, and it would be hard to match our current response time of under two minutes for any emergency in Oakwood."
Duncan said while the cost "is too expensive now, that may not be the case four to five years from now. Shared services will never be off the table."
"We've been told repeatedly that we need to look at everything. This wouldn't save us any money," said Vice Mayor Steven Byington, who recently attended an Alternative Revenue Summit for city leaders across the state.
"What I took away from that is there's the belief from the state administration that all we need to do is think outside the box and be more creative in finding ways to reduce costs or work harder. But the only new ideas are small ones that many of us have already tried. Nobody has defined a $2 million effort, or even a $1 million one," Byington said.
Council member Rob Stephens said the idea of shared city services came up repeatedly during neighborhood meetings "as the big-ticket item we needed to consider. We pledged to look into it."
Finance director Cindy Stafford and city officials are formulating the 2013 budget, which will be presented at the Dec. 10 Oak-wood City Council meeting.
Contact this reporter at 937-225-2377 or email Terry.Morris@coxinc.com