HUBLERSBURG — The next monthly meeting of the Walker Township Board of Supervisors is scheduled for Wednesday, September 7 at 6 p.m. The meeting is expected to bring together representatives of the Walker Township Fire Company (WTFC) to demand an increase in its fire tax.
WTFC leaders have been attending township meetings for about three years asking for an increase in fire tax mileage. WTFC President Chris Harter will again plead with supervisors, asking them to approve a raise that will allow the fire company to balance its budget and save for a down payment and the purchase of a new one. tank truck and a heavy rescue truck.
After failing to persuade supervisors to grant the tax increase, the WTFC hired a Bellefonte attorney, Rod Beard, and held a town hall meeting last month at their fire station to inform township residents. of their financial dilemma and the problems of an aging fleet.
Fire officials hope residents now realize and understand the fire company’s need for additional tax revenue.
According to Beard, Walker Township is governed by the regulations of a second-class township code. In some sections of the code, it is stated that township officials and representatives of fire companies should consult and work together to ensure that fire and emergency medical services are provided to residents of the township.
In the tax levies section of the code it is written that an annual fire levy of three mils may be levied by supervisors for the purpose of the purchase and maintenance by the fire company of fire apparatus. fire and fire station building. As well as for the training of volunteers and the provision of these volunteers with appropriate equipment and related equipment.
According to WTFC Treasurer Chris Miller, “The fire company is paying its bills but is barely breaking even and with the continually high costs associated with fire services there must be an increase in revenue.”
The average home in Walker Township is valued at $254,000 and generates between $50 and $60 for the million tax – about $113,000 in revenue in 2021. Double that, raise the fire tax by a two-mill mil, would cost the owner $100-$120 per year _ about $10 per month — which fire company officials consider a small price to pay for the service the fire company provides 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
More than 125 township residents came to the public meeting last month and offered verbal support for the fire company’s request for additional funds.
There are new homes being built in the township with a price tag of over $500,000 – these residents have already factored in the annual costs of taxes that must be paid on their homes and are still choosing to continue construction.
If a resident feels their property taxes are unaffordable, the homeowner has the option to discuss their tax bill with the Center County Assessment Office and possibly take advantage of the property exclusion reduction if they have no not currently have these savings on its tax bill.
The Township of Walker is a growing community as evidenced by the census data collected.
The population in 2000 was approximately 2,100. Information from the 2020 census shows that the population now numbers 4,728 people living in 2,048 households. The majority of homes are owned by married couples who have an average household income of nearly $78,000 — higher than the Center County average household income of nearly $62,000.
Census data shows that 57% of the township’s residents are between the ages of 18 and 64 and are working.
WTFC Vice President Doug Corman told The Express in an email that along with the influx of people, the volume of traffic has also increased significantly.
“When I-80 is closed and traffic is diverted to Route 64 and Route 550, they become more dangerously congested,” Corman said.
Township is one of the most diverse forms of traffic – from slow-moving Amish buggies and farm tractors with implements to speedy drivers and tankers hauling flammables and hazardous chemicals.
All share roads and Route 64 is a primary travel corridor between Clinton and Central Counties.
Although the fire company’s first priority for new aircraft is a tank truck, their second greatest need for their fleet of aircraft is heavy rescue, according to firefighters. This device responds to motor vehicle accidents and carries essential tools and equipment to extricate individuals trapped in the wreckage.
Enclosure is also done to block and stabilize to prevent tipping or collapsing.
The WTFC had a tough spring, responding to various car crashes along Nittany Valley Drive (Route 64) that resulted in fatalities.
The fire company is hosting fundraisers, a golf event in August and a gun/money raffle scheduled for later this month, as well as a membership fundraiser.
Last year, nearly 1,950 letters were sent asking for financial donations. Only a small percentage of residents sent a donation check to the fire company.
People cannot reasonably ask or expect firefighters and paramedics to organize more fundraisers when they are already responding to emergency calls every day, Corman said.
Volunteers spend countless hours in classroom instruction and training sessions just to be able to volunteer, he continued.
The township supervisors who voted to abstain from the tax increase were Keith Harter and Deborah Zimmerman.
The third supervisor, Jim Heckman, is and has been in favor of raising taxes for the fire company. Heckman was a volunteer with the fire company for 55 years, including 11 years as a fire chief.
Both Harter and Zimmerman indicated at the fire company town hall meeting that they were supportive of the fire company’s support and had contributed funds to the fire company in the past.
Zimmerman said she “would like to find a way to provide funding to the fire company without raising taxes, and that supervisors are willing to meet with fire company officials.
Township residents were encouraged to attend the Supervisors Meeting on Wednesday, September 7 at 6 p.m.