Local firefighters discuss funding concernsPublished 9:24pm Thursday, July 29, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Between reporting for duty in the state’s capitol and going door to door for votes as the August primary nears, State Rep. John Proos stopped in Niles Thursday to meet with local fire department personnel. There, talk turned to revenue sharing and its effect on local government and funding for emergency services including police and fire departments.
“There have been big issues that we have faced in Lansing, and every time there’s a discussion about finances at the state level, (it is about) revenue sharing, which is Michigan tax dollars that the state distributes to our townships, cities and villages,” Proos said.
Some of that revenue, he said, is statutory and can be moved around depending on the size of it. Where there is the ability to move those funds, there’s the ability to cut funding to certain services.
“There’s a concern because of the huge hole we have financially in the next fiscal year, what’s going to happen with revenue sharing,” Proos said.
Meeting with local fire departments, the state senate hopeful said he wanted “to look at ways we can find efficiencies, save Michigan tax dollars … which will decrease our need to take cuts.
“A lot of our municipalities will say that revenue sharing cuts will equal a loss of jobs in police and fire,” Proos said. “And I don’t think there’s anybody who would disagree” about the importance of police and fire and emergency services.
At the Niles Township Fire Department, Proos and Jim Leve, the district vice president for the Michigan Professional Firefighters, sat in the break room to talk with the two firefighters on duty for that day.
Niles Township operates a north station and a south station and is operating on such a tight budget that there’s only one firefighter on duty at each station per shift.
“If they cut us, they pretty much have to close the station,” said Niles Township firefighter Craig Lear. “We’re already at the bare bones.”
“Supplemented by the volunteers,” Leve added. But he explained that volunteers are only able to help out based on their availability, so the resource is not necessarily consistent.
In state departments like the Department of Corrections, Proos said wasteful overspending is having an effect on voters and the services that are meant to keep them safe.
“We spend more on corrections than we do higher education,” he said. Police and fire are “one significant and valued benefit to safe and livable communities.”
Without them, “the chances of businesses, schools and family success decreases significantly,” he said.