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Township to seek additional fire millage

February 16, 2011 - Groveland Twp.-Following a budget meeting on Tuesday, the township board is expected to vote on a .44 mills tax hike for the fire department. The department is currently operating on 3.5 mills and can levy up to 5 mills which was approved by voters in 2000.

If approved at the March 14 township board of trustees meeting, residents would realize the increase on their December tax bill.

Bob DePalma, township supervisor, said the hike is needed due to the significant drop in property values since 2007.

"The fire department is funded through property taxes and medical runs for other communities—those are the only sources," he said. "We've lost half the property values in the township and while 80 percent of our runs are outside the area, it's just not enough."

The state equalized value of the township dropped from $322,580,450 in 2007 down to $187,042,218 in 2011. A decline of 49.3 percent.

DePalma said the millage will be rolled back as property values improve. The actual cost of increase is an average of $34.17 per household.

"If we approve to keep within the fire millage limit, taxes on an average home would be $2,242.18, still a decrease of $246.56," he said.

The dip in taxes, despite the proposed millage increase, is due to a 12.1 percent drop in SEV in 2011.

DePalma said with the increase, no layoffs would be necessary for the fire department which is currently staffed at 1989 levels. In addition, the hike in millage will maintain an ISO rating of four, awarded to the township in January 2007.

The rating cost the township an estimated $1.5 million and took five years to achieve, but the results made home insurance lower for residents. Previously, the township's ISO rating was nine. The ISO scale for fire protection ranges from 10 to one, the lower the number, the greater the fire protection.

"The savings in house insurance with the lower ISO rating for township residents is significant," he said. "To spend $34 to keep that savings is well worth it."

DePalma said the township fire department operates on a budget of $1.2 million with a fund equity balance of about $450,000 or 40 percent.

"The hefty fund balance is necessary due to the equipment costs associated with the fire department," he said. "Consider how much a fire truck costs or repairs to a pump."

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