EMS, Fire Requests Would Hike Twp. Tax
By Wayne Witkowski
Pike County Dispatch
DINGMANS FERRY -- Delaware Township property owners could face a 2 mills increase on their taxes if proposals by the township's volunteer ambulance corps and volunteer fire department go through for the 2024 budget year.
Those issues were discussed during the budget workshop segment at the end of the crowded Delaware Township Board of Supervisors regular meeting and at the regular workshop that precedes the voting meeting.
During the regular workshop, the ambulance corps stressed the need for approval of a 1.5 tax millage rate subsidy up for voter approval on a referendum at the Nov. 7 General Election.
Ambulance corps Captain Kyle Wright and board member Carl Will discussed the rising costs of keeping their vehicles in service as well as the rising cost of medical care.
"Capital-wise, we're getting there," said Wright.
Wright and Will also talked about the new by-laws that will go into effect in January for the board, which they hope to restore to seven members. It currently is down to four.
"We're fully licensed now, we're there," said Wright. "But the fact is we lose money on every call."
Delaware Township Board of Supervisors Chairman John Henderson cited the improved financial bookkeeping by the department.
"It's a night and day improvement from five, six years ago," said Henderson.
"We're in a much better place," said Wright.
Supervisors said in previous meetings the 1.5 mills proposal would help subsidize rising costs of supplies, salaries and perhaps adding another ambulance to the fleet.
Wright also talked about the current agreement in which the county matches funds up to two mills of a township's subsidy to its ambulance service under Pike County's EMS grant program.
"At one point, the county is not going to be there," said Wright, although the supervisors expressed their doubts to that point.
During the regular meeting, supervisors approved the fourth quarter 2023 funding request from Delaware Township Volunteer Ambulance Corp. in accordance with the Pike County EMS grant program in the amount of $107,500 for continued EMS coverage ($53,750 split between Delaware Township and Pike County).
Meanwhile, township fire chief Mike Cairns gave a moving appeal during the budget workshop for a .5 increase beyond the township's existing 1.5 mills allocation to the fire company, citing the commitment to demanding training and firefighting duty shown by its members, including those juggling volunteer their time with full-time jobs.
A .5 millage increase can be approved without a referendum at any time by the municipal authorities.
The last increase in 1999 raised the fire tax millage rate by .5 to the current 1.5 standard. It brought in $152,202 in 2022, with capital operating expenses increased by 19 percent from the previous year to $79,175 and vehicle replacement costs up by $82,921.
"Cost increases for even the most basic equipment and PPE required for all firefighters are astronomical and not expected to decrease due to ongoing supply chain-manufacturing issues/inflation, even post pandemic," Cairns read from a four-page report formulated by him and George Beodeker he handed to the supervisors..
The report says self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) next year will cost upwards of $10,000 each, according to the report, and turnout gear is nearly $4,000 per person. "Current reserves are not adequate and cannot be built fast enough to overcome expected price increases," the report reads.
Add utilities for the firehouse and administrative supplies and the need for an increase in funding becomes more acute.
Cairns said a fire tax increase would reap an additional $40,000-$50,000.
"I sincerely urge you to invest in the best investment for the township," said Cairns, outlining the miscellaneous duties his department performs.
Supervisors during the regular meeting passed a motion to pay Delaware Township Volunteer Fire Company $11,375.47 for third quarter tax distribution.
Also approved was the annual renewal of the State Worker’s Insurance Fund policy in the amount of $25,201.00 for the Delaware Township Volunteer Fire Company Workers Compensation Policy.
During the budget workshop. Tim Singleton, president of the Dingman's Ferry-Delaware Township Historical Society, also requested an increase of $500 to the customary $2,500 subsidy for 2024 to better support its monthly programs that are free to the public as well as to improve the driveway to the building and to complete the parking lot refurbishing, possibly with lighting.
Dennis Lee from the Dingmans Ferry Theatre said he was not requesting any increased subsidy but asked the township to even better maintain the cabin in Akenac Park used for its indoor productions. The board during the regular meeting approved an Akenac Park use request by the Dingmans Ferry Theatre on Nov. 9 through Nov. 12 for its Gilbert & Sullivan Show, performed by a separate, private company.
A preliminary 2024 budget reflected a potential surplus to the General Fund but Henderson stressed that it's only the start of work on the budget.
Another budget workshop is planned after the next regular meeting on Oct. 25.
Also during the regular meeting, supervisors approved the payment of $1,562.50 to former township Treasurer and Supervisor Jane Neufeld under the budget contract. Current township Treasurer and Supervisor Rick Koehler and township Administrator Krista Predmore have been formulating the budget but cited Neufeld's experience and expertise on past township budgets as an incentive to render her services for the 2024 budget as well.
Supervisors also approved a contract with StarLink that provides satellite communications during natural disasters and emergencies. It costs $2,039.95, with a one-time fee of $599 plus a monthly charge of $120 per month.
They also passed a motion to remove the emergency management landline with Verizon.
Township Emergency Management Coordinator Matt Light did not request any additional funding from the upcoming budget beyond the aforementioned approvals.
Supervisors also agreed to adopt an updated Delaware Township Emergency Operations Plan.
Supervisors approved the purchase of two mobile traffic signals from Road Safe in the amount of $24,289 (through the Costars program) from the state Liquid Fuels Fund. The matter was discussed during their workshop before the meeting and Koehler questioned whether motorists would fully abide by the signal for one-lane alternating traffic during construction work. Supervisor Joe Dunne said it would be a safer alternative than a flagger directing traffic
Also approved was the purchase of two more pallets of crack sealing material at a total cost of $5,000.
Supervisors approved the annual renewal of the township’s cyber insurance policy with Cowbell Cyber for $2,419.
A $2,500 donation to the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Food Pantry for the annual Day of Giving was approved.
A municipal hall use request by Friends of Warrior Football from 1-7 p.m. on Oct. 29 for an end of regular season banquet was approved.
Supervisors also approved a municipal hall use request by Wild Acres Lake Property Owners Association on Oct. 19, Nov. 3 and Nov. 16 from 6-10 p.m. for committee meetings.
They passed a retroactive motion to approve municipal hall use request by WALPOA on Oct. 6 from 6-9 p.m. for a Capital Improvement Committee meeting.
A municipal hall use request by the Pike County Democratic Committee on Dec. 4 from 6-10 p.m. for a holiday get-together was approved..