Scio Township Fire Chief responds to Scio Tax Sanity press release and comments
In looking over the press release put out by the group, Scio Tax Sanity, the Sun Times News (STN) reached out to Scio Township Fire Chief Andrew Houde to ask him about this since it references something he wrote in a recent township newsletter.
Houde said he had seen the press release.
He also said, “Unfortunately, it leaves out a few important details.”
The actual full quote, he said, is as follows:
“A homeowner with a home valued at $400,000 will generally see increases in the amount they pay in taxes that goes to the Fire Department of approximately $50-$60 annually, until both stations are fully staffed.”
Houde further explained: “If voters approve our expansion questions this fall, we anticipate we will hire 3-6 new firefighters each year which will correspond to an annual increase for the average homeowner of about $50-$60 per year (annually). That said, when we are fully staffed, I would expect the average homeowner see a total increase of about $600/year, but that’s gradual yearly increases over the next 8-10 years. When you look at it monthly, which is a good measure as most people pay their bills monthly, that average Scio homeowner currently pays about $270/year or $22.50/month for our fire department. When fully staffed that would increase to around $900/year or about $75/month (again 8-10 years from now).”
“We have had several public meetings and are having several more where voters can get information, as well as a lot of information posted on our website at www.sciotownship.org/fire,” Houde said. “I have spoken with quite a few residents, after discussing their concerns and looking at data on our site, who have recognized the need and are supporting the proposals. I encourage anyone with questions to reach out to me personally or to attend any of our public meetings to get accurate, up to date information to make an informed decision, rather base their opinion from a misquoted release or mail piece designed to mislead the reader.”
Houde also addressed comments made at a board meeting and took a look at the group’s webpage. Here is the response he provided to the Township Board when asked to respond to comments made by the group.
I was asked by a trustee to review the comments made by Mr. Boyle during a public hearing and provide that information to the board. Additionally, I have reviewed the webpage where some of this info is posted and will offer comment on the statements made both there and in Mr. Boyle's papers.
- The increase of cost for the FD had increased 10X the rate of inflation (250%). This is accurate but misleading. The cost increases from 2010 to present have increased about 250% however this is primarily due to increase of full-time staff. In 2010, we had 4 full-time staff members, today we have 12 (a 300% increase). Adding full-time staff would have the expected impact of increasing cost.
- Increases in revenue for FD has increased 120%. Tax revenue in 2011 was $1,025,565 and in 2024 $2,000,425 (est). Again, this corresponds to the above point that increasing personnel costs require increasing revenue.
- Scio's population has decreased. This statement is incorrect. In the 2010 census, Dexter was included in Scio's population though no fire protection was provided to Dexter. In 2020, Dexter's population was not included in Scio's data. On the referenced document, Scio’s population excluding Dexter (last page) was 16,470 in 2010 and 17,526 in 2020 (per Census data). https://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2015-2016/michiganmanual/2015-MM-P0497-p0510.pdf
- Structure fire calls account for <5% of all calls. This is true, building fires represent 1.38% of our calls in 2022. Total fires 3.72%. Medical calls represent about 47% of our calls, the remainder being alarms, hazardous conditions calls (CO, wires down, unauthorized burning, water related, HazMat spills or leaks). We do, however, respond as first responders to moist medical emergencies in Scio and often arrive before an ambulance. Medical response is a service performed by most all fire departments in the state and nation. (2022 summary attached and available online)
- Needs can be met by expanding EMS service. This was discussed by the Fire Service Guidance Committee. An EMS unit in the SE section of Scio would be able to respond to 47% of the calls in that area, but a fire engine could respond to 100% of those calls.
- Most of the Township would not benefit from a second fire station. 40% of the Township would see a reduction in response time due to proximity to the Wagner Rd location. 23% of the time residents would receive a more appropriate response to their emergency (those that require more than 1 ending to respond). 95% of residents would see response time improvement to a “second call”, that is when a second emergency comes in while we are on or responding to a call, as we have added redundancy to the system.
A static that may also be of importance, the Wagner Rd station (when fully staffed) would be “first due” for about 40% of our calls, the Zeeb Rd station about 60%. Reviewing response data, about 23% of calls would require response from both stations.
Houde told STN he can answer any questions and concerns the community may have. There are also two upcoming: Meet the Chief: Ballot Questions 1 & 2 Explained, Information sessions with Scio Township Fire Chief held at the Township Meeting Hall, at 827 N. Zeeb Road, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 17 and at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 21.
To learn more about the vote, go to https://www.sciotownship.org/community/fire-department/fire-services-expansion-sad.