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Divided Hamiltonban board enacts fire tax

(11/7) The Hamiltonban Township Board of Supervisors approved a municipal fire tax at their November 6 meeting in a 3-2 vote. The tax will become effective in January 2014.

The divided board’s passage of the Adams County Council of Governments (COG)-recommended tax in the rate, effective January 1, making Hamiltonban Township the second Adams County municipality covered by the News-Journal to adopt the tax.

The supervisors set the fire tax rate at 0.25 mills, which amounts to 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.

Voting in favor of the fire tax were superintendents Robert L. Gordon, Coleen N. Reamer, and Douglas Woerner. Superintendents Harry Rood and James Grinder voted against the measure.

Board Chairman Gordon said that he struggled with trying to arrive at a decision regarding the implementation of a fire tax.

“This board for seven years has not raised (township) taxes,” he said. “I had a hard time for a long time deciding. I came to the conclusion it is the right thing to do, although I don’t like raising taxes.”

Gordon also expressed that he felt the initiation of the fire tax throughout Adams County “is a Band-Aid” approach to addressing the needs of the fire companies in the long term. “This really is just a first step. This might help and keep them (volunteer-supported) a couple of years longer.”

Rood, in voting against the tax, said, “I think it’s a little premature. We really haven’t tried hard enough to see if we can find another way (to provide funding to the fire services).”

“I’m just not ready to jump into it right now,” he stated.

The fire tax was adopted in response to a recent recommendation by COG to supplement the financial needs of the volunteer fire companies in Adams County. A rate of 0.25 mills was the tax rate suggested by COG.

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."

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 Fairfield Borough became the first municipality in Adams County to adopt a fire tax when the borough Council voted unanimously to enact the tax at their September 24 meeting.

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