The fate of the full-time staff of Columbus Township Fire and Rescue is hanging in the balance as township leaders debate whether to cut costs.
Currently, the Columbus Township fire department relies on both volunteer firefighters and a staff of six full-time, paid firefighters who are on duty during regular business hours Monday through Friday, said Ben Jackson, Columbus Township trustee.
But during a budget discussion meeting Monday of the Columbus Township Advisory Board, board members Jimmy Green and Mike Shireman broached the topic of eliminating the full-time staff as a way of reducing township tax rates.
Instead of a full-time staff, the board members are advocating hiring a part-time staff of four or five firefighters who would still be paid, but would not receive the benefits that are currently given to the six full-time employees.
Transitioning to a part-time staff would save the township an estimated $70,000, and eliminating benefits such as insurance would save an estimated $150,000, Shireman said.
The Columbus Township tax rate is 0.3459 per $100 of assessed value. In some instances, that’s roughly five to six times more than what residents in other Bartholomew County townships pay in property taxes, Shireman said.
For every $100,000 in assessed value on property in Columbus Township, about $300 goes to the fire department.
Columbus Township Fire Chief Dave Thompson said he is concerned about maintaining the department’s current quality level if the staff were to be reduced to only part time.
Right now, the department requires its full-time firefighters to have certain certifications, be trained emergency medical technicians and to undergo a training regimen, requirements that might be more difficult to enforce if the staff is only working part time and not receiving the same pay or benefits, the chief said.
For more on this story, see Thursday’s Republic.