BRICK – The fire district election typically has a low voter turnout, perhaps because it is always held on the third Saturday in February, but there are millions of dollars at stake.
“It’s always been held in February since the inception of the fire districts,” said fire district attorney Jay Sendzik. “They have always gotten support for their budget.”
Before the budget can be put on the ballot and voted on by the public, it must be introduced and presented to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for their comments, and presented at local public hearings before it goes back to the DCA for final adoption.
Brick has three fire districts that are determined by a geographical area, and they have the power to levy local property taxes to support fire fighting services. Each district has five fire commissioners, so the public votes on the budget and for commissioners whose 3-year terms have expired, Sendzik said.
Fire Commissioners are responsible for the fire protection of all people, buildings and property in its district, and are responsible for evaluating and meeting their respective fire district’s needs.
Sendzik broke down the spending in each of the three districts by capital appropriations/debt service, which covers major purchases such as firefighter gear and radio replacement, SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) equipment, fire trucks and more; and operating appropriations, which covers day-to-day costs such as training, fuel for the trucks, insurance, workmen’s compensation, and rental of fire hydrants from BTMUA (Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority), which is the largest expense.
Fire District No. 1 includes the southernmost section of Brick from the Toms River border, north and west to the Lakewood border and about a mile of oceanfront on the barrier island.
The total revenue for Fire District No. 1 is $3,659,500, and the amount to be raised by taxation is $2,434,000. The tax rate remains the same at .045 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
Capital appropriations/debt service is $1,758,000, and the operating budget for Fire District No. 1 is $1,901,500, Sendzik said. Some $370,000 of the budget is earmarked for BTMUA fire hydrant rental.
Two commissioner seats are up for grabs in the district, and the two incumbents – Walter A. Eaton Jr. and Edward Slowinski – are running for reelection.
The boundaries of Fire District No. 2 include the central portion of the township, north and east of Metedeconk River and Forge Pond, southwest of the Point Pleasant border and up to Fire District No. 3 in the north.
The total revenue for Fire District No. 2 is $1,867,281, and the amount to be raised by taxation is $1,825,000. The tax rate is .060, an increase of .001 cent over last year. The tax rate remains the same, Sendzik explained, because District No. 2 has a $1 million increase in ratables this year.
Capital appropriations/debt service is $552,751, and the operating budget is $1,314,530. Fire hydrant rentals will cost the district some $200,000, Sendzik said.
This year, residents in Fire District No. 2 will vote on a referendum question regarding the future of the Laurelton Fire Company substation on the corner of Jordan Road and Midstreams Road.
The proposed $1.8 million spending plan would pay for improvements to the 1960s-era building to allow for technical advancements and larger fire trucks.
“Voters will get a chance to vote on that. The tax rate wouldn’t change this year, it won’t be impacted until the bonds are issued next year,” Sendzik said. “It would have a very minimal impact, less than one-half a percent.”
Sendzik said that Laurelton has two substations. The second is on Van Zile Road. The Pioneer Firehouse has a substation on the barrier island. Breton Woods Firehouse has a substation on Aurora Place, and the Herbertsville Firehouse has a substation near Garden State Parkway entrance 91.
Two commissioner seats have expired in Fire District No. 2, and the names of two incumbents, Charles F. Turner and John C. Hefferton, are on the ballot.
And finally, Fire District No. 3 covers the northernmost section of Brick Township, bordered by Fire District No. 2 to the south, Howell and Wall Townships to the north and Wall and Brielle to the east.
The total revenue for the district is $1,342,431 and the amount to be raised by taxation is $1,286,931. The tax rate remains flat at .066 cents per $100 assessed property value.
Capital appropriations/debt service is $208,095 and the operating budget is for Fire District No. 3 is $1,134,336. Fire hydrant rentals to the BTMUA is $145,000.
One fire commissioner seat is up for grabs, and incumbent Robert B. Winemiller III is running for re-election.
“These are low numbers for fire service, because Brick Township, unlike some surrounding communities, is all-volunteer, there is no paid personnel,” Sendzik said.
The exception is the fire commissioners, who get a small compensation ranging from $3,500 to $7,500. They are not eligible for health benefits, but they are allowed to contribute to DCRP (Defined Contribution Retirement Program) which is not a regular retirement plan, Sendzik said.
The polling place for Fire District No. 1 is Pioneer Hose Fire Company on Drum Point Road. The polling place for Fire District No. 2 is the Laurelton Fire Company on Route 88 and Olden Street, and for Fire Company No. 3, the polling place is the Herbertsville Fire Company on Herbertsville Road.
Brick has four fire companies, which include the above and the Breton Woods Fire Company, which is not a polling place.
Polls will be open on Feb. 16 from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m.