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CAFA Board Discusses Possible Millage Scenarios

The possibility of a millage increase was the focus of the June 20 meeting of the Chelsea Area Fire Authority board.

Fire Chief Rob Arbini said that a committee, which includes CAFA Board member Tom Osborne, Tom Demske, (alternate board member for Lyndon Township,) and himself agreed that the current 1.8 mills paid by residents in the CAFA member municipalities is not enough to fund the fire department operations. The committee discussed both 2.1 mills (that would amount to an additional $245,000 a year) and a 2.4 mills (for an additional $489,797 a year).

Arbini said he tracked the number of calls received by CAFA since 2006 and noted that the volume of calls has continued to increase, which means more wear and tear on equipment. He also said that CAFA has been operating at a deficit in recent years.

He said that he believes CAFA is short-staffed, and that raising the millage to 2.4 mills would allow the fire authority to add an extra firefighter on every shift. Arbini said that would allow two people to be “in” (directly involved at an emergency) and two people “out” (standing by).

Osborne said, “What we’re trying to do as a committee is to say go back to your community and ask what level of service you want us to provide, and here’s what it’s going to cost.”

The goal is to have CAFA representatives discuss the different scenarios with their township boards and the Chelsea City Council this month and then the board hopes to vote on a firm millage amount proposal in July.

“2.4 mills would cost me about $75 more a year,” said Demske. “That’s worth it to me to have four firefighters per station.”

Once a millage amount is determined by the CAFA board, it’s expected that a new millage request will be placed on the November ballot for CAFA member municipality voters’ approval. The City of Chelsea and the townships of Lima, Lyndon and Sylvan comprise the CAFA member municipalities.

CAFA’s next meeting is July 18 at 9 a.m. at Chelsea City Council Chambers.

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1 thought on “CAFA Board Discusses Possible Millage Scenarios”

  1. I hope (and expect) the CAFA Board will provide sufficient information for the taxpayers to make an informed decision on this tax increase. For now I, for one, will reserve judgment. I understand that the Authority has been struggling financially since unionization increased costs, and apparently the expansion to the Lima substation has not been a cost saver as planned. Still, what is the justification for additional staffing? I am not compelled by the 2 in / 2 out rationale, which is an OSHA rule and not directly motivated by fire suppression principles. And how many of the increased runs are medical assist, backing up HVA, which has the primary emergency life support mandate? Historically, around 80% of CAFA runs are of this nature and can be easily reduced if this is a cost driver. The rationale for CAFA backing up HVA was that the marginal cost of this was minimal, since the firefighters were already available and equipment usage costs were relatively minor. If this has changed, perhaps the policy needs to be rethought.

    I am also concerned about the rumblings from Lyndon Township, whose leadership at one point appeared to be planning withdrawal from the Authority. Is this still on the table? If so, all talk of any millage increase needs to be put on hold. If not, I personally would like some formal assurances that Lyndon would continue in CAFA for the duration of the millage if not longer.

    I am obviously in favor of a fully functional Authority that meets all area needs, but I think we need to guard against the natural tendencies of of governmentmental entities for unconstrained growth.

    Rod Anderson
    Former CAFA Chairman

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