North Apollo firefighters plan more fundraisers to make up for loss of fire tax
North Apollo Volunteer Fire Department will need to hold more fundraisers and look for ways to reduce expenses after borough council eliminated a controversial fire fee this month.
“We saw it coming, and we are doing what we can with more fundraisers and to keep costs down,” fire Chief Chris Kerr said.
In addition to traditional fundraisers such as the monthly breakfast buffets, there are grocery auctions, themed bingo and raffles featuring a half-season of Pittsburgh Penguins tickets.
“The fire department is not going to quit on the residents and North Apollo,” Kerr said.
But, according to a survey last year, about 60% of residents who were asked wanted to quit paying a tax that cost owners of houses and commercial buildings $50 a year and apartment residents $25 annually.
Fire department officials acknowledge that the fire tax has not been popular, but they don’t believe so many residents were opposed to the tax, according to Kerr.
About $15,000 will be coming from the borough in lieu of the fire fee sometime this year, according to Edward Stitt, borough secretary.
After council unanimously voted to abolish the fire fee on May 6, members also agreed to find money in the general fund budget to help the department. But the fire department still will come up at least $10,000 short of what it received from the fire fee, which generated between $25,000 and $30,000 per year, according to Stitt.
That’s where the extra fundraisers come in, Kerr said.
The borough will provide the fire department its $15,000 in installments this year, according to Stitt.
The borough held back billing residents for the fire fee in March until council reached a decision, he added.
In the long run, consolidation with another fire department is a possibility.
“It needs to happen, eventually,” Kerr said. North Apollo’s department explored consolidation with an Apollo fire department several years ago, but “talks went south.”
“It comes down to who is the best fit,” Kerr said. “It’s like a relationship: You have to have two parties willing to work together.”
In terms of urgency, Kerr said, the housing stock in the borough is in good shape and the residents have a history of being responsible with their homes.
To learn more about North Apollo’s volunteer fire department and upcoming events, visit its Facebook page.
Residents have paid the fire fee every year since 2013. This was the second time in less than two years that North Apollo Council has considered eliminating the fee.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .