Standish Township Board levies fire protection assessment

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STANDISH TWP. — A one-mill special assessment district for fire protection was established by the Standish Township Board April 14.

The board unanimously approved a motion made by Township Trustee Dr. Ronald Schwab to establish the assessment. The one-mill assessment is expected to raise about $52,000 in its first year — the same amount the township had previously paid to participate in the Standish Area Fire Authority.

The township had been using its one-mill operating millage to fund its share of the authority payments, but due to Headlee rollbacks had begun dipping into its general fund to make its full payment.

Township Clerk Jan Kraska said that putting a one-mill millage for fire protection on the ballot, which was the route many township residents said they would like to see the board go during a March public hearing, could cause the township to have to continue using its general fund to pay for fire services.

“If we would put it on the ballot, I believe it would be subject to the Headlee rollback and we’d be back in the same situation in a few years,” she said.

Schwab, who in March said that he had been spearheading research efforts regarding the fire assessment, said other fire departments operate within an assessment district and have seen good results.

“In my research, I have found that the Deep River Township and the Village of Sterling, with a cooperative agreement, they did this years and years ago, and their fire department has functioned well with this,” he said.

During the March public hearing Schwab said home insurance would go up for people if the township were to fall out of the fire authority because it was unable to pay its share. Monday he said he felt dependable fire protection was important to the township.

“I just think it’s essential that as a community we have adequate fire protection, and I don’t know how we can do it if we just piecemeal it,” he said.

While the public hearing last month saw many township taxpayers pack the hall to voice their concerns, no community members spoke out against the assessment April 14. One of the most commonly repeated concerns shared in March from opponents of the special assessment was that voters would not have a say in the mill levied them on. Some township residents also said they were worried the township board could increase the amount levied down the road if money got tight again.

Township board members said Monday that the assessment would first be levied on upcoming winter tax bills, and that it would have to be renewed on a yearly basis.

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