Over the past few months, there has been some discussion and a great deal of misinformation concerning our fire protection in Manheim Township. For your information, let’s look at the history:
2009 - A Strategic Plan for Fire Protection was presented to the Commissioners by the Manheim Township Fire Council. The plan recommended:
• Centralized oversight of all three fire companies.
• Acquiring new fire protection equipment including new fire trucks.
• Hiring full-time and part-time personnel to supplement the volunteers.
• Enacting a fire tax of .55 mils to fund fire protection.
The Commissioners approved the plan and enacted a fire tax of .43 mils, instead of the recommended .55 mils. A revised spending plan was then established to coincide with the 22% reduction in projected revenues.
2011- The Commissioners approved the acquisition of four new fire trucks, which were leased over a ten year period at an annual cost of $315,000.
2013 – After a tanker was damaged in an accident, the Commissioners approved the acquisition of a new tanker truck. The annual lease cost is $26,000.
Beginning in 2011, revenues from the fire tax have not been sufficient to cover the costs of the new equipment and all of the operating costs. The primary reasons are (1) the 2011 leasing of the new equipment a year sooner than the spending plan and (2) higher use of part-time personnel due to a reduction in available volunteers. In spite of the increase in part-timers, operating costs over the last five years have only been about 12% in excess of the revised, and reduced, spending plan.
When the members of the current Board of Commissioners joined the Board in 2012 and 2014, the Strategic plan was in place, the new equipment had been leased, and the fire protection fund was already running annual deficits. Faced with this financial challenge, I believe it is fair to say that the entire Board is dedicated and driven to keeping fire costs in check, while continuing to deliver essential services to our residents. Up to this point, the Board has managed to fund these essential services without any change in taxes.
The Board also believes that Manheim Township residents enjoy a high level of fire and emergency protection with quick response times, modern equipment and well-trained personnel at a reasonable price. As a comparison, the 2015 budget for Manheim Township fire protection is less than twenty percent of Lancaster City’s budget for fire protection, even though both fire departments respond to a similar number of emergencies.
On behalf of the entire Board of Commissioners, I wish to extend our most sincere appreciation to all of the Manheim Township professionals, both volunteer staff and career staff, dedicated to helping save lives.