Source: Sherman Publications

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No millage hike despite sagging revenues for fire department

by Susan Bromley

September 05, 2012

Brandon Twp.- Firefighters in the township have not had a raise since 2008, the department is about to replace two aging ambulances at a cost of more than $100,000 each and property values have been declining for the past several years, resulting in a loss of revenue.

Despite these challenges, Brandon Fire Chief Dave Kwapis will not ask for an additional fire millage when he presents the proposed 2013 fire department budget for approval at a joint meeting of the township board and Ortonville Village Council set for 6 p.m., Sept. 12, at the Old Town Hall.

"It will be five years with no salary increases and we are doing just what we need to do to get by and reduce costs where we can and be able to maintain the services that we can," said Kwapis. "I am not asking for an additional fire millage for 2013. We'll have to see where 2013 and 2014 take us. If there is a huge drop in property values, all bets are off. For now, we are going to stay where we are at."

The fire operating millage has been 3.2983 mills since 1996. The equipment and housing millage was raised to .8922 mills last year from the previous .5922 mills, but is still less than the 1.0922 mills that was levied from 1996 to 2007.

In addition to the salary freeze, the 2013 proposed fire budget has no planned changes to healthcare benefits. However, healthcare costs to the township are subject to change, as the insurance company has not provided possible rate increases. Those are expected to be received by the beginning of October and Kwapis has planned for a 10 percent increase in cost.

He has also budgeted for the replacement of a 13-year-old ambulance this year, and an 11-year-old ambulance next year. Replacement consists of doing a remount— putting a new chassis on each vehicle's box, a new cab, drive engine, and replacement of interior and exterior lighting. Everything is new except for the body. When delivered, they will look like new ambulances, but will cost about $105,000 each, roughly $45,000 less than a completely new ambulance. Kwapis hopes to get another 10 years out of each ambulance. The department keeps four ambulances in the fleet.

Also to be replaced this year will be the utility vehicle, a 1999 pick-up truck that has 110,000 miles and is used to haul various equipment. Estimated replacement cost is $40,000. Replacement of two fire engines is a more distant concern, perhaps 5-10 years down the road.