To the Editor:
I am voting no on the proposed 7.5-mill Orange Township fire levy. It is my belief that the trustees have not proven that reducing the levy by a mere 0.3 mills is the best they could do in funding the fire department.
There has been progress in regards to the tentative agreement made with our excellent firefighters; they have agreed to make their own pension contributions by 2016. That, however, will be offset by annual 4 percent pay raises, so this "concession" does not net taxpayers any savings. Firefighters have also apparently agreed to give up a significant amount of overtime, which is basically "bonus" income. The problem is that no one in the private sector would be allowed to say that giving up an overtime "bonus" is a sacrifice. Nor does this amount to a great savings for the taxpayers since those overtime hours will need to be staffed by part-time workers. Regardless of the semantics, the taxpayer is not benefiting substantively from the tentative firefighter contract.
To make matters worse, Orange Township officials have failed to implement an EMS billing program, which could produce $250,000 or more of new annual revenue. They have also failed to implement a modest cost-sharing program for health insurance, which would easily produce at least a $64,000-per-year savings. It is discouraging for taxpayers who struggle to pay for their health insurance that no township employee contributes even $1 to the cost of their health insurance. Taxpayers who find it hard to pay for their healthcare look on with envy at township employees who have nearly 100 percent medical coverage. Our township officials should demonstrate they can and will implement measures that benefit taxpayers, not simply ask for higher-than-needed taxes to pay for over-the-top benefit plans.
Those of us who have examined this matter closely find the facts simply do not justify a 7.5-mill levy. Please join me in telling township officials that we will support a levy that makes sense for taxpayers. I suggest they try again in May, this time for 7 mills.
Kirby V. Nielsen