Millstone fire commissioners seek voter approval of 2019 budget

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MILLSTONE – On Feb. 16, the Board of Fire Commissioners in the Millstone Township Fire District will seek voter approval for a 2019 budget that totals $2.24 million.

If the proposed budget is approved, the fire district tax paid by the owner of a home that is assessed at the township average will remain the same as it was in 2018, according to fire district representatives.

All registered voters in Millstone Township are eligible to vote in the fire district election, which will be held from 2-9 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Millstone Township firehouse, 461 Stagecoach Road.

Voters will be asked to approve a $2.24 million budget to support the operation of the fire district and to fund its 2019 operating expenses, according to the fire commissioners.

The budget, if approved, will be supported through the collection of $1.84 million in fire district taxes to be paid by Millstone Township property owners.

In 2018, voters approved the collection of $1.839 million in local taxes to support a $2.21 million budget. The fire district’s tax rate was 9.86 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at the township average of $525,300 paid $518 in fire district taxes.

The fire district’s tax rate in the proposed 2019 budget remains at 9.86 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. If the budget is approved, the owner of a home that is still assessed at $525,300 will continue to pay $518 in fire district taxes.

A fire district tax is one component of a property owner’s tax bill, which also includes Monmouth County taxes, municipal taxes, school taxes and other assessments. Individuals pay more or less in taxes depending on the assessed value of their home and/or property.

According to the fire commissioners, increased operational costs include $76,000 to replace a command vehicle the commissioners said is aging; $60,000 for additional firefighting equipment; $30,000 for an additional driver; and $20,000 for miscellaneous operating expenses.

The tax rate has remained stable due to the management of district funds and expenses, the use of $157,000 from surplus funds (savings) and an additional $30,000 in revenue from a shared services agreement with neighboring Roosevelt, according to the fire commissioners.

The fire commissioners said the benefits of the 2019 budget are no increase in the tax rate; fiscal responsibility and stability; continued fire protection and public safety services to meet the township’s needs; and improvements in emergency response, protective equipment and training.

If the budget is defeated on Feb. 16, the fire commissioners said there will be a lack of necessary equipment and supplies, reduced training and preparedness, deferred maintenance leading to reliability issues, reductions in service and firefighters, difficulties with volunteer recruitment and retention, longer response times and higher insurance rates.

As of Jan. 31, the Millstone Township Fire District had 10 full-time career (paid) firefighters and officers, and 23 active volunteer firefighters and officers. The career and volunteer personnel are supported by three probationary firefighters, two support members and 22 members of the Ladies Auxiliary.