Heidelberg council considering tax to support fire department
The Heidelberg borough council is considering levying an emergency service tax to support the Heidelberg Volunteer Fire Department. Borough Manager Janice Adamski said a millage increase is being eyed that would cost homeowners about $60 more each year.
The borough currently allocates $11,000 of its budget to the fire department each year. The proposed increase would boost that contribution to $42,000, almost half of the department’s yearly budget of $93,000.
At a special meeting held Oct. 2, Heidelberg Fire Chief Joe Wissel Jr. said the tax would help the department pay for its utility and insurance costs as well as fuel and maintenance for the department’s vehicles. Wissel said the 34-member department spends about $38,000 on those assets each year, with insurance becoming increasingly expensive.
“If we’re not able to get this funding in line, we’re not going to be able to continue to operate,” Wissel said.
Similar taxes have been instituted in Collier and Scott townships as well as in Carnegie. Wissel said the department currently raises more than 70 percent of its own budget each year, the rest being made up of borough contributions and grant funding.
Heidelberg firefighters respond to about 68 requests each year for fire services in addition to 195 emergency service calls, Wissel said. The department responds to about 15 mutual aid requests each year, he said, most of which are placed for severe traffic accidents and structure fires. The Heidelberg fire hall is also a designated Red Cross emergency shelter.
Council will continue to discuss the proposal at its workshop and regular meetings this month. Councilman Ray Losego said it could be voted on in November.
“I think we need to help our fire department,” Losego said.
Matthew Guerry is a Tribune-Review contributor.