Bethany Bruner, Senior Staff Writer

Oxford firefighters participate in a search and rescue training exercise May 24 in an unoccupied home on Main Street. (SCOTT ALLISON | The Miami Student)

A new issue on the November ballot would increase the earnings tax in order to fund emergency medical services (EMS) and fire services in Oxford.

Issue 15 would increase income tax by 0.25 percent from 1.75 to 2 percent. The increase would cover operational costs for the Oxford Fire Department and EMS, according to Oxford City Manager Doug Elliott.

Elliott said the increase in operating costs was due in part to changes in the training requirements for firefighters and EMS workers. Another cause is the change from an all-volunteer fire and EMS division to a combination of volunteers and paid part-time staff.

Since the change from a volunteer staff in 2006, operating costs for fire and EMS have more than tripled, according to Elliott. While costs may have gone up, Elliott said response time has been cut by nearly 40 percent because more staff is available.

“We have cut response time by about three and a half minutes, which is critical when responding to emergencies,” Elliott said. “It’s easier when you don’t have to come from home and go to the station to get a vehicle before responding.”

Currently, the City of Oxford employs three part-time firefighters with EMT certification, along with the full-time fire chief. They work 12-hour shifts and the station is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Elliott credits the staffing changes with the reduction in response times, but knows improvement has come at a cost.

“Revenues have been declining due to the economy, but we’ve increased spending,” Elliott said. “We want to continue to fund improvement and hopefully we could make additional improvements as well.”

Issue 15 could generate as much as $1 million in revenue for the city if passed, which would be designated for fire and EMS.

According to Elliott, if Issue 15 does not pass in November, the city will have to look at potential cost-cutting measures. Those measures could include making cuts and eliminating the second shift.

“We could go back to the situation where response times are longer,” Elliott said.

Elliott hopes that voters will realize the necessity of Issue 15, but admits that convincing Miami students to vote could be challenging.

“We think students know we’ve made improvements and we’re asking them to support that,” Elliott said.

Voters like Miami junior James Holman are examples of the challenges Elliott and the city face. A registered voter of Butler County, Holman said he is not sure he should be deciding on decisions involving taxes.

“I don’t feel comfortable voting for anything that affects taxes or paying money because I don’t pay for it,” Holman said. “I’m not sure I should be doing that.”

Issue 15 would cost an additional $125 per year for an individual making $50,000 a year. This breaks down to an additional $2.40 a week, according to Elliott.

Issue 15 will be on the ballot for the Nov. 2 election.