East Syracuse Fire Department proposes fire district

Tonight the East Syracuse Fire Department presented village and town council members with their proposal to form a fire district. This is the second time in a month that councilors have held a public hearing on the issue. Fire Department attorney Mark Butler delivered a lengthly PowerPoint presentation at East Syracuse Village Hall in which he outlined the fire department's argument to break away from the village. Butler proposed that a fire district with a distinct budget and its own five-member council to oversee finances would create more transparency and would allow the fire department to set aside reserve funding, something it claims it lacks in its current budget. "Currently there's a need for a new rescue truck, which will run $700,000 to $800,000. There are no reserves for that piece of apparatus," said Butler. Though council members are receptive to hearing the Fire Department's proposal, there is skepticism that change is needed. "It's been working for the last five decades or so and I believe it's going to work into the future," said Dewitt town councilor Ken Andrews. "If they need new equipment, they'll bond for new equipment." The fire department, however, sees a major flaw in that system. "When we bond a fire truck we usually tack on a DPW truck, a couple cop's all bonded together and who pays for it? The fire department does because it's a fire district bond but we don't know what else goes into it," said East Syracuse fire captain Mike Cramer. "It's been going on for years and that's why we're here because you can only stretch a dollar so far and everyone wants a piece of it." The creation of a fire district would also mean that tax payers in that district would all pay the same amount. Currently, tax rates vary greatly between the town and the village. While the fire department argues that tax rates will go down, council members argue that certain residents will see an increase. There is still much to be debated in the coming months and councilors will need to agree on future exploratory meetings before a proposal is ever presented to voters. For now, the fire department remains hopeful. "I'm more hopeful every time we hold a public meeting because it allows more people in the public to understand," said Cramer. "If we keep it to just the village board and the town board then the tax payers are never going to know and if the tax payers aren't questioning where their money is going then it's always going to be status quo."