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Fairfield fire tax may be ‘imminent’

(7/18) Fairfield Borough could be among the first of the many Adams County municipalities who may pursue adoption of a fire tax, based on the recent recommendation of the Adams County Council of Governments (COG).

COG recently recommended that municipalities adopt a 0.25 mill fire tax to supplement the financial needs of the volunteer fire companies in Adams County.

A study on the state of the emergency services in the county, financed in part by the Adams County Council of Governments (COG), stated, "This action (consideration of enacting municipal fire taxes) needs to be taken now…"

Fairfield Borough Councilman Carroll Smith told the News-Journal on July 17 that the production and consideration of a Fairfield fire tax ordinance "could be imminent."

In fact, he said, "We (council) have already given our attorney instructions to draft an ordinance which we can entertain (at a future council meeting)."

The council would be considering the recommended fire tax of 0.25 mills, which would amount to a a tax of 25 cents per $1,000 of real estate value. For example, a homeowner owning a property valued at $200,000 would pay an annual fire tax of $50.

Smith said there has been a "mixed reaction" among constituents. "A lot of people misquote the fire tax. A lot of them think it is bigger than it is."

The councilman said he would like to see the tax adopted so that it would go into effect in 2014. "At this point, if there is a consensus of the council, we’re going to propose it, advertise and go through the process (of adoption)."

The tax would be in addition to a state-mandated distribution of state fire taxes given to municipalities annually, which is then, in-turn, reallocated to the fire companies that serve those communities.

Explaining the reasoning behind a push for a fire tax, COG explained, "Fire departments have significant operating expenses and they can no longer be expected to offset those costs by conducting fund raisers…The fire departments have reached the point that they are unable to cover their costs through fund raising and must receive greater support in order to maintain a volunteer force."

Robert A. Fitez. Sr., president of the Fairfield Fire & EMS, commented further on the issue in a July 5 letter addressed to Fairfield Borough.

At present we have approximately-10 to-20 volunteers providing all fire and medical services to our community," Fitz stated. "This number continues to decline and is reaching a critical point bringing the possibility of additional paid personnel closer to reality."

"Couple the declining number of volunteers with state regulations that increase the required number of training hours our volunteers must have, the increase in required record keeping plus escalating costs for equipment, and we have all of the ingredients to create the perfect storm in our local emergency services," he said.

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