GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Consolidation between Greenburgh's three fire districts does not seem to be on the horizon as the Board of Commissioners elections approach.
Tuesday, Dec. 13 is election day for Fairview, Hartsdale, Greenville, and many other fire district board of commissioners statewide. Fire districts differ from fire departments in that districts have the authority to set their own budget and to levy taxes, while departments are funded through a municipality's budget, said Robert Broderick, a Hartsdale resident who represents Region 7 of the state's Association of Fire Districts.
The fire district board of commissioner's roles are to establish a budget, implement the tax levy, oversee the fire houses and negotiate employee contracts, said Broderick. In Greenburgh's three districts, five members sit on the board for a five-year term. Every year, one member is up for reelection.
While a three-district consolidation is not in the works, even though the town nudged the idea with a consolidation study in 2009, the districts do provide mutual aid for each other, allowing a quicker response time. The Greenville district found that a consolidation would increase fire district taxes by 20 percent. Fairview found that the study overlooked the districts' high level of production.
This year, the Hartsdale district has the only contested election, with incumbent Frances Stanley running against Mark Cohen and Richard Leo. It is their first contested election in over a decade. Fairview will reinstate Chairman James Robinson, and Greenville will reinstate member Helene Orce.
All three fire districts said that their budgets would mostly be spent on salaries, health care and taxes. Fairview's 2012 budget is $11.2 million, roughly a $300,000 increase from 2011. Hartsdale's 2012 budget of $9.95 million is an approximate $640,000 increase from last year's. Greenville also noted a $300,000 increase from last year, with a 2012 budget of $7.9 million.
In the coming year, the Hartsdale Fire District could replace its tower ladder, but the purchase is not anticipated unless necessary, said Sharon Spagnoli, the district's secretary. The Fairview District might also purchase a new rescue truck using money from the equipment reserve fund.
"We don't generally have a big turnout [to the election]," said Spagnoli. "We're expecting a big turnout this year because we have three people running. It's a statewide election, and you would think more people would come out to vote, but it's not a paid position, and rarely do we have contested elections here."
Fire districts were created in the 1920s when the towns and villages settled and residents needed fire protection As outlying areas of the municipalities increased in population, residents created new fire companies to serve their needs. As technology advanced, fire companies wanted to purchase trucks and hoses, so they banded together to create fire districts, which under state law have the ability to collect a tax levy.
"Some towns and villages did it that way, but other fire companies were absorbed into the town or village government," Broderick said. "Some communities have a town fire department and a fire district."