BST&G fire district seeking levy renewal with increase
Voters living in Berkshire Township, Sunbury, Trenton Township and Galena will decide on March 6 if they want to provide more support to its volunteer fire department.
Residents will vote on a 3-mill levy that fully supports the BST&G Fire District. If approved, the levy would generate $945,000 a year for the fire service until it expires in five years.
“Basically, the reason we’re putting the levy on is ours expires at the end of the year,” said BST&G fire chief Jeff Wilson. “That’s our only source of operational funding.”
The 3-mill replacement with renewal levy would cost homeowners $91.80 per $100,000 in home valuation based on 2010 property values. This represents an increase of $2.55 a month, Wilson said.
The BST&G fire district has operated on a 2-mill levy as long as Wilson has been a member of the division, which is 25 years, he said.
With increasing fire runs, operational expenses are going up, Wilson said. The department was taking about 800 fire runs five years ago. Now, the department is taking 950 runs a year, he said.
The department was recently awarded a firefighter’s assistance grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to pay for two-thirds of the cost of a ladder truck. The department’s current ladder truck is 27 years old and starting to show its age, Wilson said.
“That stress on our financial situation is much less now,” Wilson said. “We’re able to have a levy that just covers our operating costs and day-to-day operations.”
The fire department doesn’t have any major purchase plans in the future as those were taken care of two years ago, said Wilson.
“We’re debt-free,” Wilson said. “We’ve operated within our budget for the last five years, and we haven’t had to come back to the public and say, ‘We need more money.’ We’ve been able to pay or done without.”
Wilson said that he and the fire board are concerned about going out for a levy during a down economy.
“That was a major discussion between the fire board and myself, as far as ‘Is this the right time?’” Wilson said. “Part of the issue is that Delaware County is still one of the top counties in the country for growth. The demand for service is still there.”
The BST&G fire district, located at 350 W. Cherry St., Sunbury, has 35 part-time volunteer staff with three crew members at the station 24-hours a day, seven days a week, all year, Wilson said. The only full-time employee is Wilson, who is assisted by two part-time chiefs.
“We are one of the lowest fire levies in Delaware County,” Wilson said. “There are only one or two fire departments that have less millage. We’re just asking for the taxpayers and voters to come out and vote March 6.
BST&G serves (and stands for) Berkshire Township, the village of Sunbury, Trenton Township and the village of Galena. In 1952, the Berkshire, Sunbury and Trenton Fire District was formed. When the Village of Galena Fire Department dissolved, it became part of the district.
The fire district is 52 square miles and has just under 10,000 residents, Wilson said.