Kimball Twp. officials ask voters to consider dedicated fire tax

·3 min read
Firefighter helmet stored on a shelf inside the Kimball Township Fire Department on Allen Road in Kimball Township on Monday, May 23, 2022.
Firefighter helmet stored on a shelf inside the Kimball Township Fire Department on Allen Road in Kimball Township on Monday, May 23, 2022.

If you are a Kimball Township resident and suffer a house fire, firefighters and rigs will respond from two stations and mutual aid from neighboring departments may also be called.

However, unlike residents in many neighboring townships, those living in Kimball will be billed for that fire service.

That is something township officials want to change through a dedicated tax for fire services.

"People should not be afraid to call the fire department because they're going to get a bill," said Kimball Township Fire Chief Ed Gratz.

While the department doesn't charge for medical emergencies, it does send bills for calls like house fires and traffic crashes.

Gratz said, depending on their time on scene and materials used, house fire bills can range from $1,500 to $7,000. And insurance companies don't always cover the cost, he said.

"We’re looking at our long-term budgeting forecast and between roads and parks and the cost of equipment for firefighting, it is more than we have available in the general fund," said Rob Usakowski, the township's supervisor.

Kimball Township Fire Chief Ed Gratz stands in front of a firetruck parked inside the Kimball Township Fire Department on Allen Road in Kimball Township on Monday, May 23, 2022.
Kimball Township Fire Chief Ed Gratz stands in front of a firetruck parked inside the Kimball Township Fire Department on Allen Road in Kimball Township on Monday, May 23, 2022.

1.5 mill tax and what it means

Voters will decide on the tax proposal for the fire department on Aug. 2.

If approved, the 1.5 mill tax would be collected for five years, raising about $438,722 in the first year.

The tax would eliminate fees for service for Kimball Township residents. Some general fund dollars previously used to subsidize the department would be reallocated to roads and parks.

Gratz and Usakowski said a dedicated tax will also allow them to better finance equipment rotation schedules, station maintenance, improve wages and help with insurance ratings for residents.

The department currently has one full time chief and 40 paid, on-call firefighters.

Firefighters' gear and equipment hangs inside the Kimball Township Fire Department on Allen Road in Kimball Township on Monday, May 23, 2022.
Firefighters' gear and equipment hangs inside the Kimball Township Fire Department on Allen Road in Kimball Township on Monday, May 23, 2022.

What will it cost residents?

The cost of the tax would be determined by the residence's taxable value.

A residence with a taxable value of $25,000 would be charged about $37.50 annually, while a residence with a taxable value of $125,000 would pay about $187.50 a year.

If approved, Kimball Township residents would not be billed for service, but out-of-towners involved in an emergency such as a traffic crash still would be billed.

In 2021, the department's expenses were about $458,564, with about $79,580 in revenue coming from things such as fees for service and burn permits.

The township operates on an about $1.5 million budget. About $538,000 from the general fund was allocated to the fire department in 2021.

The department has seen an increase in calls over the years, with 1,026 incidents in 2021, compared to 888 in 2019.

What it will mean for roads and parks

Usakowski said details as to how general fund dollars would be reallocated if the tax passes are still being discussed. He said they are estimating about $300,000 would be moved from the fire department to roads and parks.

"We’re still running through the numbers," he said, adding about 80% would go to roads and 20% would go to parks.

Usakowski said the township has a budget of about $200,000 for roads each year, with more work needed to be done than dollars available.

He said park infrastructure is also aging and in need of being replaced.

Town halls on the tax

Township officials will be available every Wednesday in June and July to discuss the tax request with residents.

The town halls will be at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. each Wednesday at both the fire department's station on Allen Road and the township hall on Wadhams Road.

Residents are asked to call to reserve a seat as space is limited at both locations.

Who to call with questions?

  • Rob Usakowski, township supervisor: (810) 987-9461 ext. 123

  • Ed Gratz, township fire chief: (810) 982-9461 ext. 02

  • Becky Wrubel, township clerk: (810) 987-9797 ext. 112

Contact Liz Shepard at lshepard@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Port Huron Times Herald: Kimball Twp. dedicated fire tax could shift money to roads, parks