Board discusses repayment of fire tax funds
By SARIT LASCHINSKY
Special to The Press
After an executive session to discuss litigation issues, one of the main items discussed at the Sept. 17 Heidelberg Township supervisors meeting was an agreement with Goodwill Fire Company, Germansville, regarding repayment of over-allocated fire tax funds.
Supervisor David Fink said the agreement had been proposed to spread out the fire company’s repayment of around $50,000 over a five-year period instead of one single payment, to avoid huge cash fluctuations.
However, Fink said while the agreement had been in place for at least four months, there was still some “dissent” among fire company members.
He proposed a motion for the board to give the fire company a 30-day ultimatum to sign the agreement or recoup the money during the next distribution.
Board Chairman Steve Bachman inquired about a potential compromise whereby the fire company could give some money to Northern Valley EMS, which Bachman said was financially “in a world of hurt,” and the township could waive the same amount from the outstanding total.
Bachman also said the township could not approve of writing off the $50,000 outstanding debt.
Fink said the township did not have a dedicated funding mechanism for NOVA, hose funding comes out of the township’s general fund, and said Bachman’s proposal created accounting issues and would not balance the books properly.
Regarding NOVA’s financial problems, the board agreed the township would need to look at the emergency service in their upcoming budget.
Germansville Fire Company Chief Jay Scheffler said he would get “everything squared away” with the agreement and the company, adding the company could not take the withdrawal of one lump sum of funding, and the issue was wearing on some members of the fire company.
“I see both sides of the coin here. You need money, everybody needs money, it’s that vicious thing,” he said. “Let’s get something done up and move on.”
The board agreed with Scheffler, and Fink withdrew his motion.
Additionally, on the subject of the fire company, the board also discussed the difference in fees and taxes paid by Heidelberg residents compared to Lowhill Township taxpayers, as Germansville Fire Company serves both townships.
Fink said upon investigation, Heidelberg taxpayers were paying four times the amount per capita in taxes compared to Lowhill Township residents, whom he said paid less than $7 per capita for the fire company.
Bachman added Heidelberg is also paying a major fee on a per capita basis for NOVA services compared to other townships.
Scheffler said the board should meet with representatives from the other townships and discuss the amount of calls per area compared to costs, noting the differences in collection rates and call volumes.
Supervisors agreed with Scheffler’s statements.
In his fire company report, Scheffler noted that Deputy Chief Randy Metzger recently returned from fighting the wildfires in California.
Three individuals completed their Fire 1 class, including the first female in department history, and one individual was also enrolled in a vehicle rescue class.
Scheffler also said the company would be carrying out a fire prevention event with New Tripoli Fire Company at Northwestern Lehigh School District in the near future, and suggested the event be drive-though with company members showing off trucks and equipment outside to visitors.
Regarding the ambulance service report, Bachman noted NOVA’s call volume was down 297 calls for the quarter, which had an associated loss in income for the emergency service.
He also reported major health insurers were not paying 100 percent of payments anymore, instead wanting to lower payments to around 40 percent of payout, which was also affecting NOVA.
“Their funding is drying up, and they’re having some problems,” he said regarding the NOVA report.
Furthermore, Bachman noted NOVA may have its Comedy Night fundraiser Feb. 13 or 20, 2021, depending on the COVID-19 situation.
He also said the emergency service’s apple dumpling fundraiser would be Oct. 25-26.