Fire District elections see budgets passed, commissioners re-elected

The results of the 2019 fire district elections are in.

On Saturday, Feb. 16, Moorestown residents voted on the 2019 budgets for Fire Districts Nos. 1 and 2. Under the proposed 2019 budget, Moorestown Fire District №1’s tax rate will see a slight decrease, while residents in District №2 will see a tax increase.

For Fire District №1, the total budget is $2,533,808 with $2,038,902 of that to be raised by taxation, according to Christopher M. Chesner, fire district administrator for District №1. The budget passed with 189 “yes” votes to 110 “no” votes.

He said the tax rate per $100 of assessed valuation dropped from .066 to .063 in 2019. This means the average assessed home of $454,032 would pay $286.04 in fire district taxes.

Overall, the district’s total budget appropriations decreased by $464,968 in 2019. In 2018, the district allocated $650,000 for the purchase of a new fire engine and command vehicle. Chesner said the 2019 budget includes $45,000 for a new maintenance vehicle.

Chesner said the top priorities headed into this year’s budget were funding a new maintenance vehicle they can utilize for plowing and salting of the station lot; replacing the fire alarm at the Main Street Station and funding firefighting equipment. He said they also budget money for the recruitment and retention of volunteers.

The district’s sole capital project will be the fire alarm replacement. Chesner said the devices can no longer be serviced and the parts are hard to find.

Incumbent Fire Commissioners Peter Bowman and Samuel Schlindwein both ran unopposed for a three-year-term and were re-elected. Schlindwein received 281 votes, while Bowman received 269 votes. The district has yet to receive the official count of vote by mail from the county.

Chesner said, looking ahead to the rest of 2019, the district continues to actively recruit additional volunteer firefighters, and they intend to have a greater presence on social media. He said as always, they plan on attending events in Moorestown and visiting the schools during career days to talk to the students about the department.

The district is also working on retaining members. Last year, the department launched a referral program to compensate a member for bringing a new member into the department. Not only does the member receive compensation, but the new recruit, if they successfully complete all the requirements of membership and retain membership for a stipulated time, receives compensation as part of the program. Chesner said they’ve gained three new members since launching the program.

Chesner said he’s grateful to everyone who participated in this year’s election.

“I would like to thank those residents that took the time to vote in this year’s election and the support we receive from the community,” Chesner said. “I would also like to thank my volunteer firefighters for answering the alarm whenever it sounds. It is because of them that makes me proud to be part of the fire department.”

For more information on Fire District №1, visit moorestownfire.org.

In Fire District №2, the budget saw a $4,035 decrease from last year. The total budget is $1,410,993, with the averaged assessmed home paying $141.97 in fire taxes in 2019. This marks an increase of $5.85 from 2018. In total, 65 voted “yes” on the budget while 13 voted “no on the budget.

Stephen W. Knobbs, director of fire services for District №2, said the majority of the increase in taxes is the result of tax appeal settlements. He said the original budget submitted to the state would result in a one-tenth of a cent increase in the tax rate, but due to the decrease in assessed valuation of the district resulting from the settlement of tax appeals (mostly the Moorestown Mall), the proposed budget will result in an additional three-tenths of a cent increase in the tax rate to 9.7 cents.

“The budget supports the goals of the board of maintaining the level and quality of fire protection and fire prevention services to residents and businesses while effectively managing the budget within the 2 percent tax levy cap,” Knobbs said.

In terms of capital projects, the budget reflects improvement projects that are critical to maintaining the firehouse as well as improving the health of the volunteers through the removal of carcinogens from their gear, Knobbs said.

Knobbs said the board is continuing its efforts to maintain a healthy environment for the volunteers. Last year, the district installed a source capture exhaust removal system. This year’s budget includes the funds to clean and repaint the interior of the engine bays, which includes a replacement of old ceiling tiles. The budget also includes funds to purchase a dedicated gear drying cabinet.

“Under the new standards in the fire service, the firefighters are required to decontaminate their gear after every fire,” Knobbs said. “We will now have dedicated machines for carcinogen removal and be better able to return the gear to service in a timely fashion.”

In the fire commissioners’ election, incumbent Jacqueline Grant and newcomer Alexander Humes ran unopposed and were elected to three-year terms with 75 and 81 votes, respectively. Newcomer James Carruthers also ran unopposed and gained election for an unexpired term that expires in 2020. He received 82 votes.

For more information on Fire District №2, visit www.moorestownfire2.com.

While some local municipalities are considering moving their fire elections to November, both districts have decided to keep with the February election. If they decided to move to November at a future time, they would need approval from the Burlington County Election Board.