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Small increases in millage rate, wages for BFD

August 20, 2014 - Ortonville- During a joint meeting on Aug. 18 of the Brandon Township Board and Ortonville Village Council, both government entities unanimously accepted recommendations by the Fire Authority for the 2015 fire budget.

The recommendations as presented include an increase of .2 mills to be levied for fire, as well as a 3 percent wage increase for employees of the fire department.

"The budget won't actually be approved until this December," said Fire Chief David Kwapis. "I have presented a budget with a potential wage increase. It still has to be approved by the fire authority, as well as the village council and township board."

The recommendations pave the way for the slight millage increase, wage increase, as well as repaving of the Station 2 parking lot and replacement of a brush truck (grass fire vehicle) and Bravo 3 truck (non-transporting EMS vehicle).

Health insurance costs are an unknown factor at this time that could impact passage of the wage increase. Wayne Wills, village council president as well as an insurance agent, has estimated there will be a 6.5 percent increase in health insurance costs this year, about the same as last year.

A 1.9 percent wage increase was factored into last year's fire budget, the first wage increase firefighters had seen in five years.

Also last year, 3.2983 mills were levied for fire operating, which the fire authority has recommended be increased to 3.8 mills. However, the equipment and housing millage will be decreased from .8922 mills to .5905 mills, making the proposed total levy an increase of .2 mills.

"We needed the money in operating to maintain the current level of staffing," said Kwapis, who added that less mills are needed for e+h since property purchased on M-15 across from the Sunoco gas station in 2006 for the fire department will be paid off in 2016. "In all, voters will see a .2 mill increase for the fire department."

Residents have never paid the maximum levy— 10 mills— that voters passed in the 1960s for fire protection. The most ever levied is 4.3905 mills, which Kwapis said is what the community will be back to when millage rates are set at the township board's Sept. 2 meeting.

"I think it's great," he said. "We're still able to protect and serve the community with a very small increase and not reducing staff... I commend my staff, both full and part-time, in watching dollars spent. We don't spend foolishly and they do a good job."

The Brandon Fire Deparment has nine 24-hour staffmembers, with three firefighters per shift, two 40-hour positions, a full-time administrative assistant, and 30 part-time firefighters.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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