The Gettysburg Borough Council has approved the Gettysburg Fire Department’s request to increase the annual Fire Department Tax from the current .2500 mills to .5000 mills.
Assistant Chief Ken Kime said the original rate was set in 2013 when the tax was established. “It will help in balancing future budgets going forward,” said Kime.
Kime said the tax was not designed to replace the department’s funding revenue but represents a large part of its budget. Kime said the department also got income from rentals, fundraisers, grants, donations, a weekly raffle, and an annual solicitation.
Kime said the money was needed and that if the department had to do fewer fundraisers they could do more things such as training. “Our goal is to retain qualified volunteers for as long as possible, he said.
Kime said costs had increased substantially since 2013 but that the assessment was flat and did not account for inflation.
“Prices are going up. Things are costing more. That’s what we’re facing,” said department captain Russell McCutcheon.
McCutcheon said that In 2013 one set of personal protective gear (helmet, coat, boots, pants, and gloves) cost $2,500 but today it is $6,100. Portable radios have gone from $5,000 to over $8,000 since 2016, he said.
McCutcheon said the department had purchased a fire engine in 2010 for $425,625 and that a new one was recently purchased for $763,360.
The borough said the cost to taxpayers would likely be over 4.0000 mills if the borough was forced to use professional firefighters.
Gable said borough contributions would double from about $125,000 to about $250,000 annually. Council President Wes Heyser said the addition for the average homeowner would be about $50.
Councilmember Patti Lawson thanked the department. “We’re very fortunate to have the level of expertise and professionalism in our community,” she said.
“I think this is a no-brainer,” said councilmember Matt Moon. “You guys work to support us at all times.”
“I’m amazed and grateful for the amount of hours you guys put in, unpaid, protecting lives and property and risking your own life to do it,” said councilmember Chris Berger.
Berger said it was estimated that volunteer firefighters saved US taxpayers about $47 billion.