Wednesday, December 08, 1999

$4.5M levy proposed for firefighters

Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD — The full-time firefighting staff here will double next year if voters approve a $4.65 million replacement fire levy that City Council will place on the March primary ballot.

        “We're expanding the services of the fire department,” said Councilman Mark Scharringhausen, who heads the council's Finance Committee. .”

        Under the proposed staffing plan, the city will add nine firefighters who will also be certified as paramedics, Fire Chief Don Bennett said.

        They would join the nine hired earlier this year. When the hiring is completed there would be 18 full-time firefighter/paramedics plus a full-time chief, deputy chief and three captains.

        That would allow the city to schedule four full-time firefighters at each of three fire stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Chief Bennett said. They would be supplemented by part-time firefighters. The full-time staff now is scheduled only from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with part-timers sched uled overnight.

        “This is the most cost-effective way of providing service,” Chief Bennett said.

        The proposed levy should generate about $3.8 million annually, said James Hanson, Fairfield finance director. It would replace a $2 million fire levy approved by voters in 1983 that generates about $1 million annually. If it passes, council would repeal a $1.25 million emergency medical services (EMS) levy last approved in 1996. It brings in about $850,000 annually, Mr. Hanson said.

        The net effect of the new levy plus the repeal of the EMS levy would be an extra $72 in annual taxes beginning in January 2001 for the owner of a house with a market value of $100,000, Mr. Hanson said.

        The city's subsidy of the fire department from the general fund would end with passage of the new levy, Mr. Hanson said. This year the city will supplement the existing levies with $750,000 from the general fund. Next year that figure will increase to $850,000.

        “The fire department needs a stable source of funding,” Mr. Scharringhausen said. “The general fund varies from year to year based on income tax collected, which is tied to the economy.”

        Council is expected to take a final vote on the levy at the Dec. 13 meeting.


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