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Fire levy on ballot for Upper: Renewal of existing 2 mill levy

On the Nov. 5 ballot, there will be a proposal for the voters of Upper Township to renew a long-standing levy for fire protection.

The amount is 2 mills, which means that a property owner would pay 20 cents for every $100 the property is valued at. The levy is for five years.

Upper Township Volunteer Fire Department chief JD Pancake emphasizes that it isn’t a new levy.

“We’ve had this one for several years,” he said, adding that voting yes doesn’t mean a new tax. “It isn’t going to raise taxes. It’s around $30-$50 a year for fire protection when it is needed.”

He added that there is also a 1 mill levy and both levies generate about $60,000 a year on which the fire department operates. Since the firefighters are volunteers, they don’t get paid.

“Once we pay our bills, we have a carryover of about $10,000 to buy equipment with,” Pancake said.

Pancake said that funds from the levy go to things like worker’s compensation, insurance, fuel for the trucks, utility bills and anything to do with the fire department.

“We have very little tax money that we get to spend on equipment because of the bills we have to pay to keep functioning,” he said. “So we have to go out and ask for donations and have fundraisers to buy other equipment we need because of the cost of that equipment.”

As an example, a brand-new pumper truck costs around $350,000.

“And that’s a cheap one,” Pancake said. “We priced one last year.”

He said the fire department recently bought a used, but newer, truck just to keep the price of their insurance down and save taxpayer money.

“All our equipment is up-to-date,” Pancake said, adding that a grant from FEMA paid for new hoses.

“The fire department is paying five percent on that match for $38,000 worth of hose, nozzles and equipment that goes with that,” Pancake said. “So, the taxpayers are only going to pay around $1,500 for that, plus the cost of a grant writer, so it was about $3,000.”

There are 18 members in the department and they recently got a $43,000 grant for new turnout gear, including pants, jackets, air packs and bottles. The equipment has a life of about 10 years before it has to be replaced.

The Upper Township VFD goes on 250-300 runs annually, both in the township and on mutual aid calls for other fire departments. There are 18 members in the department.

“We go on about one call a day. Sometimes, two or three a day,” Pancake said. “We do a lot of accident calls.”