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Fire Authority Presents Options to Address Budget Shortfall

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Tracy McMillan and Tracy Locey in front of fire engine number one.

By Sue Moore

Addressing a potential yearly shortfall of $187,295, officials from the South Kalamazoo Fire Authority (SKCFA) have been presenting three possible funding options to the six taxing units in the SKCFA – the townships of Brady, Schoolcraft, Wakeshma, Prairie Ronde and the villages of Schoolcraft and Vicksburg.

Randy Smith, Brady Township supervisor and chairman of the Fire Authority Board, and Tracey Locey, former administrator of the SKCFA and South County EMS, have presented the costs of operating the fire authority to each of the local units of government, with the last presentation to be made to Schoolcraft Township on December 9.

The three options Smith and Locey have presented include:

  1. Do nothing which means the SKCFA is underfunded resulting in not being able to replace/purchase equipment and vehicles, repair facilities, or train firefighters.
  2. Absorb the increase by continuing to pay from the general fund which is no longer possible for the Townships as the cost of running the Fire Authority has outgrown the money available in the last 15 years, according to Smith.
  3. Finance the Authority through a millage or special assessment district.

Smith and Locey hope the units of government can make a decision on funding by early in 2015.

Following the SKCFA presentation at the Schoolcraft Village Council, the council formed a three-person study committee to take the proposals under consideration, according to Cheri Lutz, village manager.

The other units were asked to think ahead for whatever action they might consider taking.

Finances have been an issue since the SKCFA was formed in 1999. The money is needed for equipment, salaries for the firefighters, and emergency vehicles. In South County, the money for fire protection has largely been paid from the general funds of the six taxing units in the SKCFA. One-time expenses have been picked up through grants from the Vicksburg Foundation and assessments to the governmental units.

Money is also needed for the authority’s everyday expenses, planning for future equipment needs, and adequate funding of overhead and facilities. Past practice has meant going to each unit of government when something breaks down and asking for one-time donation to fix things.

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