GIRARD — The Crawford County Commission approved the budgets for all four county fire districts at its regular meeting Friday — including mill increases for districts one and two.
The commission approved Baker Township Fire Department (district one) to raise its mill rate from five to six and one half mills, while Arma Fire Department (district two) increased its rate from 5 mills to seven. One mill is equal to one dollar per every $1,000 of assessed value.
The commission had public hearings on all four budgets August 29, but tabled approval of the budgets. The commission asked Baker Fire Chief Mike Ryan and Arma Fire Chief Mike McLeod to submit letters outlining what the mill increases will go toward.
McLeod discussed some of his plans with the commission. He said call volume increases each year, which increases costs, as well as the cost of gear and more going up. McLeod is also working toward employing one full-time firefighter in District Two.
“All my guys are volunteers,” McLeod said. “They have other jobs, some even multiple jobs, so I’d like to get to where we can have one person full-time at the station.”
District Two also serves as the City of Arma’s fire department. Arma pays 20 percent of the building payment for the station, as well as paying for half of what is paid to volunteers.
McLeod also hopes to add a second station in the future, which would benefit taxpayers by bettering the areas ISO insurance score. Homeowners within five road miles of a fire station can save 35-40 percent on insurance.
That is something Ryan has helped accomplish in District One.
Baker Fire has three stations and averages 175 calls per year, according to Ryan. The placement of the stations means nearly every homeowner in the district has a 6 ISO rating — about the same as in the city of Pittsburg.
“The savings on insurance to taxpayers offsets what they’ll see in this mill increase for sure,” Commissioner Tom Moody said.
Ryan said the bulk of the money from the increase will be used to replace two aging trucks — 36 and 37 years old.
The funds will also help with the rising cost of gear. A full set of gear for one firefighter currently costs over $4,000.
Ryan said increased calls have also increased costs. Baker firefighters are paid $10 per call.
“It’s amazing what kind of hours these guys put in,” Ryan said. “We had a call recently where guys were out there for 12 hours and they made $10.”
The commission had to approve resolutions for the two districts to increase their taxing ability in order to approve the budgets. The resolutions passed, but Commissioner Jeff Murphy voted no.
“I just think the increase to property taxes is too much at once,” Murphy said. “And if we are going to increase mill rate, I’d like to see it happen countywide.”
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.