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Homer Twp. fire district seeks property tax hike

Updated: April 18, 2014 6:12AM



The chief of the Homer Township Fire Protection District hopes voters on Tuesday will approve a request to issue $4.7 million in capital bonds so it can replace aging equipment and repair fire stations.

The referendum question on the ballot asks residents of the district if the 15-year bonds can be sold to pay for improvements that the district says have been put off since 2007.

“This is basically going to set the tone for how we’re going to operate in the future,” Fire Chief Robert Tutko said.

The owner of a $300,000 home would pay an extra $65 per year if the referendum is approved, according to information on the district’s website. The hike would remain on tax bills until the bonds are paid back, which is expected to be 15 years.

Building repairs are needed to address structural, plumbing, electrical and heating issues, Tutko said. Some of the district’s fire trucks are nearly 20 years old.

“When the economy tanked in 2007, I think a lot of people thought it was going to be a short-lived recovery,” Tutko said.

Tutko said costs have been cut to address the shrunken revenues that have afflicted the district since 2007, including delaying maintenance at the district’s three stations and also delaying the purchase of new equipment. The district eliminated three positions, renegotiated its contract with the firefighters union and adjusted overtime to save $400,000 in 2013 while also trying to find new sources of revenue.

If the referendum passes, funds would be restricted for capital purposes only and could not be used for hiring additional personnel, nor for pay or benefits for employees or for building any new fire stations, according to the district’s website.



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