Winfield, LOFS look at numbers for a combined fire territory
by Rich Bird Post-Tribune correspondent February 23, 2012 1:54PM
Updated: March 25, 2012 8:14AM
WINFIELD — Local officials now have the first set of uniform numbers to use in ongoing discussions about a plan to create a unified, full-time fire department for the Winfield and Lakes of the Four Seasons areas.
Karl Cender of Merrillville-based accounting firm Cender & Co. presented a preliminary financial analysis of the proposal on Wednesday to a joint session of the Winfield Town Council and Winfield Township Board, attended by representatives of the fire departments that now cover the town of Winfield and Winfield and west Porter townships.
The plan calls for a full-strength staff of 18 full-time firefighter/EMT personnel, along with a chief, assistant chief, second assistant chief for emergency medical services and administrative assistant.
“We would still have volunteers,” LOFS Fire Chief Graham Federico said. “To think that one engine and one ambulance could handle all the calls is pretty far-fetched.”
According to Cender’s report, under the proposed fire protection territory:
The property tax rates for the territory will be uniform for the town and the two townships at a projected 16.26 cents, which includes the 03.33-cent equipment replacement fund levy.
The projected net increase to a taxpayer with a gross assessed value of $150,000 will be $97.94 in Winfield, $40.98 in Winfield Township and $63.95 in west Porter Township.
If approved, the territory could become active later this year, but the initial budget and tax levy wouldn’t become effective until 2013.
The plan would be phased in over three years, beginning in 2013. Working on a gradual basis would be “easier on the towns” in terms of tax impact, Federico said.
He said a three-year build-up also will give the department the ability to hire over time, ensuring quality hires.
The report, Cender said, is preliminary, and does not include an analysis of the plan’s impact on circuit breaker credits.
“The report has shed a light on a lot of different things we have conjectured about over a lot of years,” said Winfield Township Trustee Roland Brauer Jr. “Speaking for all of the elected officials, any tax increase is something we want to stay away from. This has given us some solid numbers to look at … and make these tough decisions.”