By Matthew Sockol
MILLSTONE – On Feb. 18, residents will be asked to vote on the 2017 budget put forth by the Millstone Township Board of Fire Commissioners. Voting will take place from 2-9 p.m. at the Millstone Township Fire Company, 461 Stagecoach Road. All registered voters in the township may cast a ballot in the fire district election.
The fire commissioners are proposing a budget of $2 million to support the operation of the fire district this year. The budget will be supported through the collection of $1.8 million in fire district taxes, according to the proposed spending plan.
The fire district is served by the Millstone Township Fire Company.
In 2016, voters approved the collection of $1.74 million in local taxes to support a $1.99 million budget for the fire district. The fire district’s tax rate was 10.94 cents per $100 of assessed valuation and the average home assessment was $532,623. The owner of that home paid $501 in fire district taxes.
In 2017, the average home remains assessed at $532,623, but the fire district’s tax rate will increase to 10.99 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of that home will pay $527 in fire district taxes, an increase of $26.
A fire district tax is one component of a property owner’s tax bill, which also includes Monmouth County taxes, municipal taxes, school taxes and other assessments. Individuals pay more or less in taxes depending on the assessed value of their home and/or property.
According to the fire commissioners, in 2017 the fire district will face increased operational costs in salaries, the maintenance and repairs of equipment, miscellaneous operating expenses, $32,000 for the purchase of new portable radios and $68,000 to replace underground storage tanks.
A rejection of the proposed budget will result in a lack of necessary equipment and supplies, reduced training and preparedness, deferred maintenance leading to reliability issues, reductions in service and firefighters, difficulties with recruiting and retaining volunteers, longer response times and higher insurance rates, according to the fire commissioners.
In addition to voting on the 2017 fire budget, voters will also elect members to the Board of Fire Commissioners.
According to Commissioner David Markunas, who chairs the board, Marie Reed, Genevieve Semanchick and incumbent Commissioner Russell Taylor are running for two three-year terms. Commissioner Paul Boegemann is not seeking re-election.
Commissioner Anthony Marra, who was appointed to the board in 2016 to fill a vacant seat, is running unopposed for a one-year unexpired term, according to Markunas.
The fire company was an all-volunteer organization until 1999 when the first career (paid) firefighters were hired. At present, there are nine full-time career firefighters and officers and 23 active volunteer firefighters and officers. Millstone Township’s career firefighters are on duty from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the community’s volunteer firefighters respond to incidents from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
In 2016, fire company personnel responded to 762 incidents. That number includes 19 structural fires, 87 mutual aid responses to neighboring communities and 142 motor vehicle accident calls.