This is an open letter to the Apalachin Fire District Taxpayers.
Fall is upon us and there is a lot to share from the Apalachin Fire District. First and foremost it is budget season. Your elected commissioners and our talented Treasurer, Fred Meyn, have been diligently reviewing the budget all summer in preparation for 2021.
The 2021 Proposed Budget sees a material increase in investing in insurance and our labor and associated personnel costs to better serve our community. Budget offsets came predominately from operational savings from bringing contracted services back in-house and using our staff to complete them, such as plowing and station maintenance.
Over the past five to ten years, there is a material shift in our budget as labor costs increase and the available funds for equipment and capital assets decline. This is something the commissioners are intensely following and planning for to ensure we keep taxes minimized over the next decade.
For the coming year, we once again plan to stay within the “Two Percent Tax Cap” law. As you may know though, this is not a hard 2% cap as there are adjustments made for in the law through the Comptroller’s office, previous tax rate movements, and other regulations.
The results for 2021, the Fire District preliminary budget represents an increase of 1.9% over the 2020 Total Budget. The dollars required from taxes will increase 2.6% to a total of $1,071,416. This represents an increase of approximately $9.50 per year for a property assessed for $100,000. The average assessment in the Apalachin Fire District is less than $100,000 and therefore many taxpayers will see a smaller increase.
I want to acknowledge that although $9.50 per year amounts to a few cups of coffee, we have many taxpayers that live on fixed incomes and even this amount disproportionately impacts this population. The Board does not increase any tax lightly and we unanimously voted on this proposed budget because we feel the taxpayers get tremendous value for this investment.
For more information, we invite you to the public Budget Meeting on Oct. 20, at 6:30 p.m. at Station 1 on Pennsylvania Avenue for more details.
Another important story to share is that the Apalachin Fire District ambulance was mobilized under the New York State mutual aid plan to assist with ambulance coverage at the COVID testing site at Binghamton University. The New York State Mutual Aid plan is used by almost all agencies in the state to ensure a cooperative network of emergency services are available to meet the safety needs of our neighbors. This was previously utilized during 9/11 in New York City, where many agencies went to assist the Fire Department of New York.
In this event, we have been called up to staff an ALS ambulance six days a week during mostly business hours. This was done after the state’s Department of Health exhausted the Broome County agencies that have been serving since the pandemic began.
The Board of Fire Commissioners discussed this request at length during our September board meeting, with great cooperation from our Fire Chief, Mike George and his expertise on the operational impact to the agency and financial impact.
We are incredibly proud of our volunteers and staff who have stepped up and offered to serve over the rest of 2020 to cover this mutual aid obligation.
We will continue to monitor the agency performance and call response, recognizing our primary responsibility to serve the residents of the Apalachin Fire District and we are grateful for the support of our neighbors through the county mutual aid plan to back us up as designed and when needed. We are confident that there will be minimal impact, if any to the community from an operations perspective.
From a financial perspective, this request for mutual aid is structured under a grant program that is funded from the Federal Stafford Act, which will allow the District to be reimbursed for all services provided. The Board fully anticipates that we will realize a modest financial benefit to the taxpayers from our participation and we will ensure we keep close attention to this along the way.
As always, we are here to serve you and on behalf of the entire Board of Fire Commissioners, we want to thank the dedicated volunteers and staff members who have continued to serve you throughout the year and especially in this pandemic. Their selflessness is something we can all be proud of.
If you have any questions or comments, I invite you to reach out at any time and look forward to hearing from you.
Chairman, Board of Fire Commissioners
Apalachin Fire District