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Chester County Press

Dedicated tax for fire, ambulance services is the right way to go

01/17/2017 02:35PM ● By Steven Hoffman

Have you ever picked up a telephone and called 911 for an emergency? Have you ever called for assistance because a loved one needed medical attention immediately? Have you ever had to report a fire and wait for firefighters to come to the rescue?

Most people, at one time or another, have needed to make the call for help in an emergency situation. And in that moment that we make the call, we're desperate for help. We need a prompt response.

That's why it's pretty easy for most people to agree that fire companies and ambulance divisions need to be adequately funded.

Oxford Borough Council has reversed its decision regarding funding for Union Fire Company No. 1 of Oxford, the Oxford ambulance division, and Southern Chester County EMS, and good for them for acting quickly to correct a flawed budgetary decision.

As borough council was discussing the fire and EMS funding situation at the January 9 meeting, at least one borough council member mentioned the possibility of establishing a dedicated tax that would be used to fund fire, ambulance, and EMS services. Some municipalities in Pennsylvania have a dedicated tax.

The rationale for a dedicated tax makes a lot of sense. Residents would know that the tax dollars that they are sending in would be used specifically for fire and EMS services. The reasons for an increase in the tax could be explained by fire company officials. Ideally, each municipality that is served by the fire company in Oxford would provide its funding through a dedicated tax.

Fire companies and ambulance divisions are finding it more difficult to find volunteers who are willing to dedicate their free time to responding to fire and ambulance calls. Concerns about safety have resulted in much more mandatory training for the firefighters, and while that's not a bad thing, it does reduce the pool of volunteers simply because of the additional time that is required—that's additional time that the volunteers won't be able to spend with their families and friends. There's already a movement toward needing to rely on paid staff to respond to fire and ambulance calls. When that happens, the costs for the fire and ambulance services increase dramatically. That appears to be what the future holds for fire and ambulance companies here in Southern Chester County.

Pennsylvania has an aging population. People are living longer. The need for fire and ambulance services isn't likely to decline in any significant way in the future. A dedicated fire and ambulance tax would provide sustainable funding so that the fire and ambulance companies can provide the best services possible to the communities that they serve.

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