Colwich, Union Township working to split fire budget

By Fred Solis
Clarion – June 29, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – July 6, 2017

The issue of shared funding between the City of Colwich and Union Township to support the Colwich Fire Department is moving to the front burner.

By contractual agreement, the township is to provide half of the funding for the Colwich Fire department, while the city covers the other half. The agreement between the two entities is renewed annually.

Recently, Union Township informed the city that it could pay $48,263 in 2017, leaving Colwich to come up with the balance of the budget of $141,825.

“Forty-eight thousand dollars is what they typically pay, but it doesn’t cover the full half of the fire department budget,” said Colwich City Clerk Diana Brooks. “We’re trying to get to the point where they fund half of the fire department’s budget. Every dollar that the township does not contribute, the citizens of Colwich will have to pick up and pay.”

Over the past few years, Union Township has paid the city between $40,000 and $48.000, Brooks said. In 2010, the township paid the city $40,000 and incrementally increased its support to $48,000.

“The agreement is that they pay half,” Fire Chief Brad Banz said. “Our budget has increased, especially after we went to full-time positions in 2007.

Colwich added a second full-time position in 2016. Banz’s position is part-time.

“The township’s mill levy is set at a certain level,” Banz said. “When I’ve met with them the last couple of years, they’ve given me a specific number that they would be able to pay.

“We usually go out and meet with them ahead of time and give them input of what our budget is and a breakdown so they have an idea of what kind of services they will be provided,” he said.

“Right now, financially, fiscally, the City of Colwich isn’t going to cut staffing,” Banz said. “If worse came to worse, we would look at cutting some other way. We would do our best to maintain current staffing.

“Right now we’re setting back a considerable amount of money into our capital improvements for some other projects that need to be done. That’s an area we could cut back on. But we want to make sure public safety is funded.”

Union Township contracts with City of Colwich for town protection rather than belonging to Sedgwick County Fire District No. 1, Banz said.

The township’s boundaries are 77th St. N. on the north side, 29th St. N. on the south, 215th St. W. on the west, and 119th St. W. on the east.

According to county records, Union Township levied $215,989 in taxes in 2016, $46,015 of which went to the fire fund budget.

The gap between what the township said it could pay for 2017 ($48,786) and its half-share of the budget ($70,900) is about $22,600.

The only way for the township to close that gap would be to raise its mill levy, said Karen Bailey, deputy county clerk. The total mills levied in Union Township in 2016 was 4.360, with 0.953 mills going toward the Colwich Fire Department, she said.

One mill for Union Township equals $48,786, Bailey said. To generate $70,000, the mills would go to 1.445, an increase of about one-half mill, Bailey said. That works out to be $5.75 more in taxes a year on a $100,000 house. Any increase in the township’s mill levy would have to be approved by township voters.

“They (township) have four funds: general, road, fire and library,” Bailey said. “Union Township residents pay road, fire and library. Their principle responsibility is to pay the roads in unincorporated areas.

“In the past they have had a specific number of mills that we calculate for them for their value,” Bailey said. “That’s the amount they put in.”

Union Township is scheduled to meet with Bailey on July 13 to tell her its budget needs for 2017.

“We facilitate their budget,” Bailey said. “They tell us what they need to levy. If they need more funding, they will tell us. We help them fill out the budget forms, have their receipts and budget for 2016 and 2017, and have estimates of revenue for 2018. But it’s their budget.”


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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