City weighs fire territory tax hike

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The Greenfield Fire Territory’s main hub is on South Street in downtown Greenfield.

Mitchell Kirk | Daily Reporter

CENTER TOWNSHIP — Officials are considering raising a tax rate on properties in and surrounding Greenfield for services the city’s fire territory provides.

Greenfield City Council voted 6-0 last week in favor of an ordinance on the first of two readings increasing the tax rate for the Greenfield Fire Protection Territory from $0.2317 per $100 of assessed property valuation to $0.3317. Council members Kerry Grass, Jeff Lowder, Gary McDaniel, Mitch Pendlum, George Plisinski and Dan Riley voted in favor; John Jester was absent.

The council is slated to have a final vote next week. If approved, the change would increase the fire protection territory’s maximum tax levy from nearly $3.37 million to over $4.8 million.

The territory consists of Center Township in Hancock County.

The increase is made possible by an Indiana House bill signed into law earlier this month allowing fire protection territories that experience more than 6% population growth during a 10-year period to increase its maximum property tax levy by an amount based on the population growth that exceeds 6%. Indiana Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, co-authored the bill.

Greenfield Fire Chief Brian Lott said Center Township’s population increased 16% over the past decade. Using a formula outlined in the new law, the Greenfield Fire Protection Territory can increase its tax rate by $0.1 per $100 of assessed property valuation.

Without the opportunity the law provides, the fire territory wouldn’t be able to keep up with the way its response area is developing, Lott said.

“There’s no way we’d be able to grow like we need to,” he said.

The territory plans to hire nine new employees and is adding an ambulance to its fleet, bringing its total to four.

“That way, our citizens are getting a quicker EMS response,” Lott said.

He estimates the territory will have close to 5,000 runs this year, around 85% of which will be for emergency medical services.

Lott also recalled the territory had 561 mutual aid responses in 2021, 277 of which were EMS transports. When a Greenfield Fire Territory ambulance is on a mutual aid transport, he continued, that means less ambulances are available for those in the territory’s primary response area.

Lott pointed out that the law allows an increase of up to a cap of $0.15 per $100, but Center Township’s population growth doesn’t support that high of a hike.

“If we could’ve, we may have been able to put another fire station in place, which is desperately needed, but unfortunately we’re not able to,” he said.

The territory currently has two stations – one in downtown Greenfield and another on the city’s north side.

Pendlum, one of the city council members who voted in favor of the tax rate increase, said the extra funding should help the territory in terms of workforce, equipment, improved response times and eventually a new fire station.

“Public safety is always No. 1 on my list,” he said.

Plisinski, another council member who voted in favor, said the first reading moves the matter along for further contemplation and that it could be amended on second reading. He added he has questions on how property tax caps would play into the change and how Center Township leaders feel about the potential increase.

The fire territory’s concerns about growth are understandable, Plisinski continued.

“You have to have that pool to draw from to make those major investments,” he said.

If you go

What: Greenfield City Council meeting

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 27

Where: City Hall, 10 S. State St., Greenfield

Why: The council will consider a tax rate increase for the Greenfield Fire Protection Territory

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