The Fort Hunter Fire District is a municipal Government established under NYS law to provide fire protection within the geographic area legally identified as our “fire district”. The Fort Hunter Fire District generally lies in the northernmost part of the Town of Guilderland, encompassing the following areas; Old State Road to the CSX railroad tracks to the Schenectady County/Town of Rotterdam line to Curry Road/Town of Colonie line to Kings Road/Albany City line including the NYS Thruway within this area. (See map link)
There are five (5) Commissioners and a Treasurer elected by the registered voters residing within the Fire District. In addition, the Board of Fire Commissioners appoints a Secretary; in our district the secretary and treasurer are the same person. The members of the Board of Fire Commissioners receive no compensation in the form of salary or tax waivers. The Secretary/Treasurer receives a small salary, which is allowed by law to compensate for the time required to fulfill the duties of the position.
The Fire District is required each year to adopt a budget subject to the Town Law. The Town Board, which collects the taxes through your annual tax bill, cannot routinely overrule this budget. The tax rate is established based upon the budget and assessed value of all properties located within the district. The tax monies provide funds for firefighting, fire apparatus, equipment, insurance, physical examinations, service awards (retirement), construction and maintenance of the fire station. During the past 40 years the Fire District, through judicious use of reserve funds, has not borrowed money to purchase any firefighting apparatus. Our current state-of-the-art fleet of vehicles was bought without paying any interest. This accomplishment has saved thousands of taxpayer dollars over the years. All property owners in the Fort Hunter Fire District currently pay a fire tax of approximately $1.00 per each thousand dollars of assessed value. This tax rate is one of the lowest in the Town and has remained fairly constant over the last 10 years, even as services have increased and firefighting expenses have skyrocketed. The Fire District has received several grants used to offset tax dollars for purchase and replacement of important equipment. We will continue to pursue any grant money that we are eligible to receive.
The Board of Fire Commissioners meets on the second Monday of every month at 7:30pm at the fire station. These meetings are open to the public and we welcome any member of our community to attend.
Some of the frequently asked questions concerning fire protection in suburban areas are:
• What is the difference between a Fire District and a Volunteer Fire Company?
• What is funded by tax dollars and what is covered by donations?
• Who is paid?
• What is the Service Awards Program?
This article will briefly answer these questions.
• The Fort Hunter Fire District is a Municipal Government formed under Town Law. There are five (5) Commissioners elected by the registered voters residing within the geographic boundaries of the Fire District. The Treasurer is an elected officer of the Fire District. The Fire District Secretary and a Deputy Treasurer are appointed and paid a minimal salary. Since the district is becoming a part time business operation, the district has appointed two paid positions an Office Manager and Station/Apparatus Maintenance Manager to assist in the day to day operations of the district
• The Fort Hunter Volunteer Fire Company is a not-for-profit entity and has no governmental status. Any resident of the district can apply for membership. If an individual is elected that person must pass a probation period to become an active member. Members of the company elect the executive and firematic officers. The executive officers consist of a President, Vice President, Treasurer, Recording and Financial Secretaries, four (4) Trustees, Statistician and Sergeant at Arms. The Firematic officers consist of a Chief, two (2) Assistant Chiefs, a Captain and three (3) Lieutenants. These officers are elected to their positions from within the Fire Company
• The relationship between a fire district and fire company is somewhat analogous to a school system. A school board would be similar to the board of commissioners, the superintendent and principals are comparable to a fire chief and the Executive Officers, and the teachers and support staff function like the firefighters. The members of the Board of Fire Commissioners, the Firematic and Executive Officers of the Fire Company and the Firefighters receive no direct compensation in the form of salary or tax waivers.
• The Fire District is required each year to adopt a budget subject to the Town Law. The Town collects the taxes for the fire district and the town board cannot change the adopted budget. The tax rate is established based upon the amount of the budget and the assessed valuation of the property in the District. The tax monies provide funds for fire fighting, fire apparatus, equipment, insurance, physical examinations, service awards, annual audit fees and maintenance of the fire station. The budget is explained in some detail below.
• There are, however, a number of functions which require some funding that is not covered by tax dollars that the Fire Company incurs the cost for. The money from your donations pays for phone stickers for community residents, special insurance, food at emergency incidents, rehabilitation provisions, fire prevention programs and other related activities. Additionally the company pays for the annual installation dinner for the company officers and other social functions that provide some perks for the firefighters. The fire company adopts an annual budget to control these expenses.
• The Fire District provides a Service Awards Program, a small retirement plan, which allows a firefighter to accumulate credit toward monthly payments upon reaching age 60. The individual must meet an annual minimum requirement in terms of training and fire fighting in order for that year to be credited for retirement. There is a five-year minimum for vesting. We currently have a number of active firefighters over the age of 60 who make an excellent contribution to the community and are still able to receive additional e retirement benefits providing they attain the minimum requirement for the year.
The district engaged a consultant to review the condition of our fire apparatus, suggest a replacement plan and assess the needs for fire protection within the Fort Hunter Fire District. As a result of this review the district sold a 1987 Engine/Pumper and has ordered a new Engine/Pumper to replace the 1992 Engine/Tanker/Pumper ETA-34 and expects to take delivery late spring 2010. In addition the district purchased a pick-up truck to be used as a miscellaneous vehicle. After delivery the Company will have an up to date fleet of fire fighting vehicles as follows:
301 2010 Ford Expedition Cost $40,000
302 2004 Ford Expedition Cost $30,000
303 2006 Ford Expedition Cost $29,951
S-33 1995 Squad Truck Cost $260,000
E-36 1999 Engine Cost $306,000
M-32 2009 Support Vehicle Cost $35,000
E-38 2010 Engine Cost $560,000
E-35 2012 Brush Truck Cost $127,000
The Fort Hunter Fire District has purchased all of these state-of-the-art trucks without borrowing any money through careful planning and use of reserve funds. This mechanism has saved thousands of taxpayer dollars over the years.
All property owners in the Fire District pay a fire tax of just over $1 for each thousand dollars of assessment. The 2010 Fire District budget is distributed as follows:
Salaries and Associated Cost 2.50%
Secretary (Salaried), Deputy Treasurer, Office Manager and Station/Apparatus Maintenance Manager (Hourly)
Annual Equipment Purchases 5.49%
Items needed to outfit the firefighters and provide the necessary equipment to assist the firefighters in the firefighting operations.
Contractual Expenses 24.66%
These include the cost of operation the Fire District such as Utilities – Heating and telephone, Maintenance and Repairs on the Apparatus and Station, Fuel for apparatus, Fire Training, Firefighter Physicals, Outside Audit Cost.
Service Awards 9.72%
Pension program which assist in the retention of for firefighters approved by the voters of the district
Insurance Coverage’s 11.36%
Includes liability coverage and Volunteer Firefighters Benefit Insurance (Workman’s Compensation) mandated by law.
Building/Property Debt 36.16%
The debt incurred in the cost of constructing the state of the art fire station which is similar to a mortgage payment on a home. This indebtedness was approved by the voters of the fire district.
Fire Truck/Equipment Reserve 10.11%
Moneys set aside annually to purchase apparatus and associated equipment in the future.
The Board of Fire Commissioners scheduled meetings are on the second Monday of every month at 7:00 P.M to conduct the regular business of the Fire District. There are scheduled meetings also on the second Wednesday of the month to complete pending business matters. The public is invited to these commissioners’ meetings.