Source: Sherman Publications

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Brandon Fire chief to request millage rate hike

by Susan Bromley

August 10, 2011

Brandon Twp.- Fire Chief David Kwapis will ask the township board and Ortonville Village Council to approve a .3000 mill increase for fire equipment and housing during a special joint meeting at 7 p.m., Aug. 15 at the library, 304 South St.

If the board and council approve the increase, a resident with a $120,000 home with a taxable value of $60,000 would pay about $18 more per year.

Kwapis said the increase is necessary because of a 78 percent decrease in tax revenue since 2006. The fire department actually decreased taxes that year by a half mill because of excess funds in the budget.

"Now with the decline in revenues and the housing market, we will struggle to pay off the debts that have been incurred such as the M-15 property we purchased for a future fire department complex, and the loans for a tanker and car," said Kwapis, who is also concerned about aging tankers and engines which will need to be replaced in a few years at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars.

The township used fire department funds in November 2006 for the purchase of 66.1 acres of land adjacent to Brandon High School off M-15 at a price of $1,955,000. A portion of the land was sold to the Brandon School District for a high school parking lot and the fire department took out a 10-year, $1,369,000 loan from Chase to purchase the land with a future fire hall in mind to replace Station #1 in the village.

About $900,000 is left owing on the loan, which will be paid off in 2016. The fire department pays about $177,000 per year on that loan. The loans on the tanker and car will be paid off in 2012, and between the two, the department pays roughly $46,500 per year.

The township's fire department operates under a non-renewing millage because it was organized under a special assessment district in the 1960s. It is not affected by the Headlee Amendment rollback. Kwapis explained that voters approved the S.A.D. as a permanent funding mechanism to maintain the fire department and as such, the township board can raise or lower millage rates for both the fire operating fund and e&h. The maximum that can be levied is 5 mills for each fund. Currently, the township levies 3.2983 mills for the fire operating fund, and .5922 mills for equipment and housing. A .3 mill increase for the e&h fund would put the total fire mills levied at 4.1905.