I wanted to share a brief update on what’s happening with area residents of the local Apalachin fire district.
As we wrap up 2023 there have been a lot of changes to improve our service to our community. We’ve increased our public outreach with local schools, churches and businesses to complete pre-plans and to improve community safety.
We’ve held multiple meetings with charitable organizations and community groups during 2023. We’ve sponsored a half dozen blood drives impacting hundreds of recipients. We’ve also partnered with the Apalachin Lions Club, who donated a significant amount towards a forcible entry training simulator. This investment has improved our volunteer firefighters’ skills, enabling us to reach victims and fire sources faster in an emergency.
The results of our efforts this year can be measured by the increased number of members, and by maintaining our Insurance Standards Organization (ISO) rating of 3/3Y. This rating is best in class for any volunteer fire department. The result is keeping the lower insurance costs for homeowners and business owners within our fire district.
We implemented the EMS Cost Recovery Act in late 2022, allowing us to bill insurance companies to reimburse ambulance transports. Our fundamental goal was to diversify our funding sources beyond property taxes. The results have been a net positive to the taxpayers, but short of revenue expectations.
The 2023 budget had no tax increase for our taxpayers, despite increasing paid EMS staffing for around the clock coverage. This year’s budget paid for that staffing increase with reserves (savings) and anticipated revenue from EMS billing.
Unfortunately, full-year billing revenue came in approximately 50% of what the billing companies consensus forecast was, resulting in a $200,000 shortfall. We will not have the reserves to pay for this in 2024.
For 2024, the commissioners have a binary decision – increase taxes proportionately or make draconian cuts to EMS services. We unanimously agreed to maintain the higher level of EMS coverage, which has resulted in approximately 95% call coverage and an average response time of less than 10 minutes.
Therefore, the 2024 budget calls for a 23% tax increase for the Fire District taxes. This increase will only apply to the “Apalachin Fire” line item on your county tax bill, not your entire tax bill. With a $100,000 assessed value, a taxpayer will see an increase of approximately $83 next year. The average taxpayer will pay less.
We all appreciate the impact on our constituents, particularly those who live on a limited or fixed income. This decision was not made lightly. Attendance at our public hearings and meetings were lightly attended. Therefore, we want to extend an invitation for your questions and feedback at any time. My contact information is below.
Finally, I’d like to take a moment to recognize two outstanding members, Don Baumbach and K.C. Tripp, who both celebrated 50 years of service in 2023. We could not be more proud of them. And to the 85 dedicated volunteers who serve and protect our community every day, thank you for supporting them and our mission.
We wish you and your family the very best this holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Chairman, Board of Fire Commissioners
Apalachin Fire District