With the Northampton Volunteer Fire Department faced with increasing costs and an impending need for new fire trucks, the Northampton Borough Council has started to consider whether it is time for a fire tax to help support the department.
Councilwoman Judy Kutzler started the discussion during council’s September 22 meeting.
“We need assistance…by the entire borough populace,” she said. “Many folks and corporations have no idea that our department is only partially funded…[and] staffed by professional volunteers.”
In 2023, the fire department is expected to pay $152,176 in truck payments. It also costs the department $6,000 to equip one firefighter. In the industry, turnover is high.
“We are blessed if we keep one firefighter a year,” said Councilwoman Kutzler.
Yearly, the fire department sends brochures to residents asking for a donation. Response rates, however, are low.
Kutzler said a one-mill tax would bring in $45 a year from each property owner, ensuring landlords who live outside the borough are contributing.
“I want people who are out of town, who own these properties, to pay up,” she said.
A one-mill tax now, she added, would also prevent a significant tax increase ten years from now, something the city of Allentown is seeing.
Councilman Ronald Glassic commended Councilwoman Kutzler for speaking up. He said it would be easier for the borough and fire department to secure loans for new vehicles with tax money coming in. Glassic also said the borough should go after the large corporations in the area for funding.
Councilman Anthony Lopsonzski, Sr. agreed.
“This is something that needs to come to light and come to life,” he said. “We are not doing this for today…we are doing this for [our] grandchildren.”
With funding for volunteer fire departments difficult to secure across the area, Kutzler believes the county will soon move to a regional volunteer fire department. However, with the proper funding and equipment, the headquarters may end up in the borough.
Borough Manager LeRoy Brobst said such a tax has been on his mind. He said a decision is already on October’s agenda for a fire equipment fund. Council will vote on whether or not the borough should pursue this during the meeting. If so, it will have to be effective by Jan. 1, 2023.
In other news, council approved a Local Share Account grant application for $24,900. If secured, this funding would be used toward video and surveillance equipment in borough parks and properties to prevent vandalism, which has been on the rise over the last several years.
Council also approved, with regret, the resignation of part-time police officer George Walsh. He served the borough for nearly 50 years and was instrumental in the growth of the police’s K-9 unit.
“I am so proud of the work he has done,” said Councilman Lopsonzski, Sr.
Finally, council approved trick-or-treat night for Monday, October 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. Traditionally, trick-or-treat has always been on Halloween night.
The next borough council meeting will be Thursday, October 6, at 7 p.m.