2012-07-26 / Life in Leelanau

Townships asked to OK fire renewals

Suttons Bay, Bingham voters face same 2.3-mill levy approved two years ago

Two property taxes are up for renewal on Aug. 7 in Leelanau Township that will keep the lights on, grass cut and fire trucks and ambulances rolling.

And voters in Suttons Bay and Bingham Townships will be asked to renew a 2.3-mill property tax levy they approved two years ago to help pay for operations of the Suttons Bay-Bingham Fire and Rescue Department.

In Leelanau Township, one 2-mill proposal, a decrease from the previous 2.2 mills that was collected, would be used for equipment, operation and maintenance of fire protection and emergency medical services. The tax is expected to bring in $770,592 in its first year. Property owners currently pay about $220 per year on homes with a taxable value of $100,000; under the renewal they will pay about $200 per year.

The Leelanau Township Emergency Services has six fulltime Emergency Medical Technicians, as well as a reserve pool of six technicians. A full-time fire chief and 28 volunteer firemen round out the roster. The department has five fire trucks, two ambulances and two rescue boats and delivers full fire and Basic Life Support services. The department contracts with the Suttons Bay-Bingham Fire and Rescue Department for Advanced Life Support Services.

The second millage, which is used to fund services such as the airport, cemetery, library, parks and recreation, and planning and zoning, asks for a slight increase from the tax previously collected. Voters will be asked to approve 0.47 mills, an increase from the 0.46 now on the books. The millage will bring in an expected $182,823 in its first year, or about $4,000 more than was collected this year. Property owners currently pay about $46 per year on a home with a taxable value of $100,000; under the renewal they will pay about $47 per year.

The operational millage renewal is used for things such as new computers for the library, gas $150,000. However, the department didn’t have the funds available to pay outright for the vehicle which forced the fire board to apply for an interestfree loan from Cherryland Electric Cooperative. Loans are made available to governmental units for the purchase of equipment benefitting communities.

The 1997 ambulance which had been in use will be used as a backup or in the event more than one is needed at one time.

Fire Chief Dan Petroskey reported this spring that there have been inquiries from citizens as to when the fire department will upgrade to Advanced Life Support (ALS) from Basic Life Support, offered now.

The cost of implementing ALS would double the current budget total for fire and EMS.

Although an upgrade to ALS is years away, township officials say additional moneys are needed now to help fund and maintain the department’s equipment.

The department has two trucks more than 25 years old. It would cost an estimated $250,000 for a new tanker and $150,000 for a brush truck, according to Petroskey.

The township’s millage which expired in December, generated $64,000 which required the township to tap into its general fund to come up with an annual contribution of $75,000 for operations.

If approved, property owners will be paying $1 per thousand dollars of taxable value. The new levy is expected to generate $85,000 in 2012 and $87,000 in 2013.

Centerville Township is also seeking a millage increase for fire and rescue services.

The township has been collecting .50 mills for the past several years.

The request on the Aug. 7 Primary ballot is for .75 mills for a two-year period.

“We’re still Basic ( Life Support) but as we get closer to advance response, our costs keep going up,” Centerville Supervisor Leonard Kelenski said.

In addition to equipment needs, the fire board plans to convert the firehall to natural gas, which will require the purchase of new furnaces.

“I hated to do it, but we had to ask for .75 mills and I don’t even think that is enough,” Kelenski said. “We can’t afford to do it without additional money.”

If approved, the levy will raise an estimated $69,180 in December and $72,065 in 2013.

This year’s fire operating budget is $189,500. This includes a $34,851 payment on the department’s new tanker.

The operating budget for ambulance service is $213,300, up from $178,000 the previous year. Of this tally, $97,000 is identified for EMT payroll and benefits and $95,000 for on-call payment and benefits.

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