POINT PLEASANT — The new fiscal year begins July 1 and for Mason County’s largest fire department, and the smaller ones, that year begins with less money with which to operate.
Point Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jeremy Bryant said three major fundraisers are being planned to help his department make up for a budget shortfall after funding from the county commission was reduced — the latest cut will take place July 1.
In terms of the PPVFD, for fiscal year 2012-13 it received $31,000 a year from the county commission, then in FY 2013-14 that funding dropped to $15,500 and in FY 2014-15, the funding goes to $5,500. Bryant said in the last two years, the department has had county cuts of 50 percent and 65 percent.
All fire departments, EMS, libraries, festivals and agencies outside the county offices which the state requires the commission to fund first, received cuts. The county blamed these cuts, in part, on a significant loss in personal property revenue in Class III and IV which is defined as non-residential property. The loss in revenue resulted in the county dropping from Class II to Class III by the state when it comes to minimum and maximum valuation of property. These classifications determine the compensation of elected county officials, which means county officials in Mason County will also take a three percent decrease in salary starting July 1.
The commission did unexpectedly receive money from the Tax Loss Restoration Fund last year and gave all six fire departments in the county an additional $5,000 though that money is not expected to return this year.
Many of those agencies which received cuts are now scratching their heads as to how to keep their budgets balanced and not sacrifice services provided to the community. Bryant said in neighboring counties there are fire fees which are assessed on each home and business but that currently does not exist for the PPVFD.
The PPVFD will soon be sending letters to residents in its coverage area asking for donations — an area which is a significant part of Mason County and will reach around 5,000 homes. The letters will spell out the budget shortfall, what the fire department does and the expenses it faces.
For example, the cost to outfit one firefighter in turnout gear is $1,997. In terms of equipment, an air pack costs $5,800; 1 3/4-inch hose is $129.99; 2 1/2-inch hose is $173.99; 5-inch hose is $765.99. In addition to this, there is required annual testing of this equipment - pump test is $586; ladder test is $1,022; air pack test is $1,051; truck preventative maintenance test is $2,811; rescue tool service test $963; air cascade system service test is $1,508.
In addition to the mailing campaign, for the first time, the PPVFD will be manning concession stands at many local events, including the upcoming Point Pleasant Regatta and Mason County Fair.
“We know everyone needs to eat and drink at these events and hope they will keep us in mind when making their dining plans at these events,” Bryant said.
Also, on Sept. 27 at Riverside Golf Course, the Second Annual Point Pleasant Fire Department Golf Scramble will take place. Sign ups begin Aug. 1.
Bryant said this fund raising campaign and the letter campaign is not about “pointing fingers at anyone.” This is a financial reality he wants the citizens who utilize the department, whether in an emergency or in terms of their homeowners insurance premiums, aware of so the same level of response and care can continue. Unfortunately, that takes money but fortunately the commitment is there to get creative about not sacrificing services.
“We want to make up the shortfall, not have to cut those services to people,” Bryant said.