By Scott Sullivan
The Saugatuck Township Fire District board is asking member governments for a .2-mill property tax increase to provide a stipend for paid on-call firefighters and EMS personnel next year.
Saugatuck City Council was slated to weigh the request, which would total 2.2 mills levied against the real taxable value of the district, at its Tuesday, May 28, public meeting, too late for this week’s deadline.
Douglas City Council and the Saugatuck Township Board soon will be asked to approve the STFD 2019-20 fiscal year budget too.
“The Fire District,” says its board’s proposal, “is experiencing a significant increase in demands for emergency public safety incident response and services.
“While education and fire prevention efforts have assisted in reducing fire calls by 19 percent since 2004, there has been an 82-percent increase in call volume for total calls, including a 29-percent increase in medical calls and 408-percent increase in other calls (overpressure, explosion, overheat, hazardous conditions, service, good intent, false alarms and severe weather).
“The STFD Board’s goal is to maintain the high level of public safety for our residents,” its proposal continues. The .2-mill increase would generate $115,000 for paid on-call stipends and allow adding a full-time firefighter/EMS position to meet the increasing demands for public safety.
The board, which consists of two representatives from each of the three partner governments plus one at-large member, will hold a public meeting on its proposed budget Monday, June 17, at the fire hall, 3342 Blue Star Hwy., Saugatuck, at 4 p.m.
The district’s 12-page budget packet notes firefighters answered a record 907 calls in 2018, up from 813 in 2017 and a then-record 875 the year before that.
Its budget was increased from 1.7 to 2 mills in 2016. That figure last year — combined with other revenue sources such as grants and donations, cost recovery, and inspection and plan review fees — generated $1,232,500. That total would jump to an estimated $1,446,000 with the .2-mill increase.
Of that, based on state-equalized property values, Saugatuck Township taxes would generate $716,000, Douglas $360,500 and Saugatuck city $353,500.
Two-tenths of a mill equals $10 for each $100,000 of property value for district residents. For example, a home with a state-equalized taxable value of $150,000 and property double that, or $300,000, it would mean a $30-per-year tax increase.
Included in the board’s budget packet are notes on the increased costs for equipment maintenance, repair and replacement.
Comparative costs in 2009 and 2019 for items with 10-year life spans include: helmets, from $150 to $350; turnout coats, from $600 to $1,400; gloves, from $50 to $95; turnout pants, from $750 to $1,500; boots, from $150 to $400; self-contained breathing apparatus (air tanks), from $3,150 to $6,500; and explosive gas detector, $450 to $2,500.
Fire engines, which have 15-year useful life spans, have risen from $325,000 in 2009 to $650,000 this year. An automatic external defibrillator (AED) battery, which has a 3-year life span and cost $49.95 in 2009, costs $159.99 today.