Residents will be voting on the district’s budget, two Board of Fire Commissioner seats, and a special question authorizing a new truck
Washington Township residents will have the opportunity to vote on the 2017 fire district budget on Feb. 18. If approved, the budget would decrease the district’s tax rate by .001 cent, from the 2016 level of 13.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to 13.8 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The budget would raise a total of $5.8 million by taxation to support the full budget expenses of $6.6 million.
The average homeowner in Washington Township with a home valued at $210,605 would see a decrease of about $2.10 in fire taxes.
According to Fire Chief Patrick Dolgos, having a spending plan and keeping the budget below previous years was a priority.
“We’re very proud that our budget is actually $4,000 less than last year, so it pretty much balanced out. We’re proud of that,” Dolgos said. “We’ve looked into other goals for fiscal responsibility, and that includes entering into cooperative purchasing, which has already saved us in 2016 about $56,000 to our taxpayers.”
Alongside the budget, there will be five names on the ballot running for fire commissioner: Frank Stella, David Vicente, Frank Gurcsik, Mike Marczely and Jim DeMore. Stella and Vicente are the incumbents. There will also be a special ballot question authorizing the fire district to purchase and replace a new rescue truck. According to Dolgos, the current truck is coming up on the replacement age of 20 years.
Dolgos said the district is looking into new strategies to ensure volunteers and career staff is familiar with the budgeting process, so when confronted with a question about how much it is, or what the responsibility is on the taxpayer side, firefighters are able to answer those questions.
Dolgos, who was hired as fire chief last March, said the №1 goal of the department is the safety of its officers, and the protection of the community. According to the chief, last year the fire district responded to about 1,300 calls for service and about 200 education and CPR training courses, in addition to almost 4,000 fire inspections.
“That comes to about 13 times per day that we have an opportunity to interact with our community,” Dolgos said, “so I want to ensure our personnel are not only capable of answering the calls in a timely fashion, but also taking the opportunity to interact with the community and find out what other needs are out there that we haven’t met yet.”
The Washington Township Fire District is made up of six stations and a maintenance facility. Three separate companies — Grenloch, Whitman Square and Hurffville — operate the stations. According to Dolgos, the district has 16 career firefighters who work Monday through Friday, and about 100 volunteers who cover the rest.
Dolgos said they are working on new, creative ways to recruit and retain volunteers, ensuring there are areas within the facilities where volunteers can do homework or computer work while on duty. Within the past year, the district also instituted a stipend program, allowing volunteers to be paid for responding to calls.
“We’re looking at other areas of the country and seeing what they’re doing, and seeing if we can implement it here. It is a challenge, but I know we’ll be successful,” Dolgos said.
Dolgos, who grew up in Washington Township, joined the Washington Township Fire District in 1985 as a volunteer. In 2002, he left his job in law enforcement to take a career opportunity within the fire department as a captain overseeing the training division.
“It’s a brother and sisterhood that no other job out there has; it’s our second family,” Dolgos said. “The people here within our department are so dedicated and passionate about what they do, and they come from all walks of life. You learn from everybody, and that’s what it’s all about.”
The fire election will be held from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Fire District Headquarters, 213 E. Holly Ave.