Paoli Fire Company – Open Letter to Tredyffrin’s Residents

I just received the following open letter to the township from a Board member of the Paoli Fire Company with a request to post.  The letter is well-written and like Berwyn and Radnor fire companies speaks to the real need to reinstate the contribution cut proposed in Tredyffrin’s draft 2010 budget.  Please take the time to read the letter.

December 7, 2009

Dear Tredyffrin Resident,

The Paoli Fire Company supports a Tredyffrin Township budget which does not include the proposed 5% reduction in capital and operating support for the localfire companies serving Tredyffrin Township.

Local fire and emergency services are provided to Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships by the Berwyn, Paoli, and Radnor Fire Companies. The majority ofthe townships’ territory is serviced by the Berwyn and Paoli Fire Companies.

The Paoli Fire Company’s annual operating budget is approximately $1.6 Million. We raise about 80% of that money primarily through our own fundraising efforts and by billing insurance companies for ambulance calls. Approximately $88K or 5.5% of our annual operating budget is paid for by contributions from Tredyffrin Township. For the past two years, we have received a capital contribution from Tredyffrin totaling $33K per year. Our fire engines, support vehicles, and rescue equipment cost approximately $3 million, and we follow a disciplined long range capital plan to replace them as they reach the end of their useful life. We pay for the replacement of those vehicles from our own savings, state funds, state loans, and whatever capital funds are provided by the townships.

For 2010, Eastlown Township decided to maintain the level of funding (both operating and capital) for the Berwyn and Paoli Fire Companies at the 2009 level. Tredyffrin Township has preliminarily approved a budget that will reduce its township contribution to our operating and capital budgets by 5% compared to 2009 funding levels. While this is a relatively small amount of money in the Township’s total budget, it is significant to us and we feel it is a mistake for the township to move down this path because every dollar is vital to our volunteer company and it sets a precedent that may be hard to reverse in future years.

The number of fire and emergency services apparatus housed at the Paoli and Berwyn fire departments has been deemed “adequate” to handle fire services in Tredyffrin and Eastlown by an independent consultant and the Insurance Services Organization (ISO). Any change in this status would change the township’s ISO rating and possibly the insurance rates throughout the township.

The term ‘share the pain’ has been used when explaining the cuts in Tredyffrin. While we understand and acknowledge this sentiment, the Board of Supervisors and community must realize that the level of township support we receive is quite low when compared with our total financial needs. We believe that more needs to be done to support the volunteer and paid professionals who are accountable to the community everyday. In 2008, we responded over 1,600 times in performing the mission we were founded to fulfill in 1909.

Two other sources of funding have been reduced this year as well. The funding we receive from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for our Relief Association dropped 10% from 2009. These funds are restricted to safety and training related items and have a very limited use to the general operation of the fire company. At the same time, our fund drive numbers (voluntary contributions from citizens and businesses we serve) are lower in 2009 than 2008. We expect that they will also be lower in 2010 than in 2009. Along with the reduction in reimbursement for ambulance service the pressure to operate with a budget that is declining in revenue and increasing in cost continues to grow.

We ask that Tredyffrin maintain our 2010 funding at the 2009 level. We provide a monthly financial activity report to Tredyffrin Township to improve our transparency and to put a cost on the service we provide to the citizens.

Regardless of the final decision of the Board, our organization is committed to working with our elected officials and community to resolve the longstanding issue of how to fund emergency services with a dedicated funding stream.

We encourage you to reach out to members of the Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors to let them know your view on this critical public safety funding issue. You can email them at bos@tredyffrin.org or attend the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, December 21, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. to voice your concerns directly to the Supervisors.

You can also sign an ePetition in support of the three fire companies that service Tredyffrin. The address is http://tredto.epetitions.net/. We hope you will support us and ask that Fire/EMS funding for the Berwyn Fire Company, Paoli Fire Company, and Radnor Fire Company be reinstated to 2009 levels.

Sincerely,

The Members of the Paoli Fire Company

TE School Board — Finance Committee Meeting Tonight (Remember 7.2% Tax Increase is Possible)

The 2010-11 Preliminary Budget will be discussed at tonight’s (Monday, December 14)  School Board Finance Committee Meeting, 7:30 PM, Tredyffrin/Easttown Administration Offices (TEAO) at 940 West Valley Road, Suite 1700, Wayne.  Here is the Finance Committee Meeting agenda.  One of the stated committee goals is to “study implications and impact of converting TE School District to a charter school district” — wonder what that means to the community?  I am hoping to receive details post-meeting from some of you who attend.  Please read these 2 earlier posts from last month, Looking for School Board Details and Tredyffrin Easttown School District – 7.2% Tax Increase Possible

I’ll be curious if there is any mention of the PA Teachers Pension Fund — see following article:

Friday, December 11, 2009

  PA Teachers’ Pension Fund Wants Billions More from Taxpayers

The Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement Fund said today its “plan net assets” used for calculating future pension subsidies shrank to $43 billion at June 30, from $63 billion a year ago.

As a result, PSERS is calling for an 8.22% payroll surcharge on all school payrolls in 2010-11, to be financed by state taxpayers and local property taxpayers, up from this year’s 4.78% levy. Put another way, PSERS wants $1.1 billion next year, up from $617 Million this year, to supplement investment profits and payroll deductions taken from school workers’ checks, so it can pay around $5 billion in annual pensions to retired school workers and administrators.

That’s going to mean either local property tax increases, plus more money from the state’s pinched revenues; or some quick legislating to postpone the problem once again.

PSERS also says the surcharge should go up to 29% of payroll, or more than $4 billion, in 2012-13.

To read more from PSER, click here

Fire Company Comments re Fundaising . . . Should Fire Fighters Supplement the Budget Deficiency with Fundraising Efforts?

Comments to my last posting have raised interesting dialogue concerning the township requirement to provide emergency service to the public vs. requirement of the fire houses to further fundraise to increase their coffers.  (Read the comments to the last post).  One commentator suggested that if each household gave $2, the $21K could be raised by the public.  In theory, that would be correct, but as pointed out at the last Board of Supervisor meeting by several (including Bill DeHaven) the public can no be relied upon for contributions.

Read the comments and then weigh in — do you think that our volunteer fire firefighters should increase their fundraising to make up the shortfall with the township budget cut?  Or how about the volunteer fire fighters base their support, on the public’s support?  In other words, they hold back support until the public makes up the financial deficit?

I would be curious if the fire companies could elaborate on their fundraising efforts.  For instance, I know that Paoli Fire Company does an annual contribution drive, does Berwyn and Radnor do likewise? Any details that you could provide would be helpful – however, please understand that I think that your volunteerism efforts as a fire fighter should not require anything further; you provide a service that the township is required to provide to its residents.