Hampered by impasse over tax rate, GFD faces increasing pressure

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield Fire Territory needs more staff, Chief James Roberts says, but as funding remains in limbo for the third year in a row, it’s practically impossible for the department to grow.

Runs were up by 13 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year, Roberts told the Greenfield City Council at a recent workshop, and the department has had to rely on nearby volunteer stations for assistance.

City officials need to consider staffing levels for the department that serves both Greenfield and Center Township, he said, but until a state tax court makes a decision on how much residents should pay in property taxes, budgeting remains a challenge.

“At this point, I don’t have a good answer,” Roberts said. “We can ask for (more staff), but … we don’t know what can happen with the case.”

At issue is a funding dilemma city officials have faced since 2011. The fire territory formed in 2008 as a way to get both township and city residents paying an equal amount on taxes for services. Problem was, the change came at the same time as property tax reform, and city officials said confusion over rates led to all property owners paying more for fire protection than ever before.

The state Legislature passed a bill in 2011 for Greenfield to have a special review of its tax rates, and the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance ruled late that year that township residents were paying too much and the rate should be cut. The city of Greenfield immediately appealed the decision to the Indiana Tax Court, and officials are still awaiting an answer.

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