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Jul 13, 2024
Edinboro VFD Requests Tax-Based Funding
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By Firefighter/EMT Daryl Parker
June 20, 2024

In early May, the Edinboro Volunteer Fire Department notified the Borough of Edinboro and Washington Township of its desire to seek tax-based revenue in order to continue its mission. Like most similar agencies, we have reached a point in time that traditional means of funding emergency services are simply not adequate to effectively and properly protect the community.

We’re very proud to say that we have a volunteer force that remains ready and willing to not only serve the community, but also performs all the tasks associated with being prepared to serve (training, fundraising, maintaining, management, etc.). While we see increases in manpower (new members), they simply cannot keep up with the increasing demands for service. Couple this with increasing costs, and the challenges associated with operating an emergency services agency with inadequate funding.

A minimal staffing model that would be required to ensure that an ambulance responds when needed will be just short of $600,000.00 (1 two person crew available 24/7/365). We find ourselves with an aging fleet that must be replaced, let alone the building maintenance and other capital expenses. Estimates to repair/maintain our parking lot exceed $100,000.00, and the cost to replace an ambulance (which is now due) will cost approximately $250,000.00. The average age of our apparatus is 16.5 years old, with several that must be replaced in order maintain regulatory standards. Our vehicle maintenance budget has doubled in the past five years. While day to day operations are maintained through our other areas of funding (grants, fundraising, social club, etc.), these capital and payroll expenses are unfunded essential priorities.

Volunteer fire departments and EMS services often require tax-based funding to survive for several reasons:

Equipment and Supplies: These services need up-to-date equipment like fire trucks, hoses, medical supplies, and life-saving technology, which are typically expensive. Maintaining and replacing this equipment as it ages or becomes obsolete is a constant financial burden.

Personnel: Many volunteer fire departments have had to augment their volunteer force with paid individuals. This is known as a hybrid system. Paid staff ensures at least a minimal response when emergencies occur. While $500,000.00 seems like a large amount to provide two people 24/7/365, this is nothing when compared to the costs to staff a paid fire department.

Training and Certification: Volunteers need proper training to handle emergencies effectively, which includes regular practice drills, professional instruction, and certification courses. This training ensures that they can provide competent and safe responses in emergencies.

Facilities Maintenance: The physical facilities where the fire trucks, ambulances, and other equipment are stored also need maintenance. This includes utilities, building repairs, and other operational costs associated with maintaining a base of operations.

Insurance and Liability Coverage: Providing services in emergency situations comes with high risks. Insurance is crucial to protect the volunteers and the organization against liability claims, which can be financially crippling.

Recruitment and Retention Programs: To attract and keep volunteers, programs may need to offer incentives like small stipends, health benefits, or retirement plans, especially in areas where it's hard to find volunteers.

Response to Increasing Demand: As communities grow, the demand on volunteer services increases. This can mean a need for more sophisticated equipment or more comprehensive coverage, which requires additional funding.

Tax-based funding helps ensure that volunteer fire departments and EMS services can maintain a state of readiness and provide essential services to the community without financial strain on the volunteers themselves. The Department looks forward to ongoing discussions with our municipal leaders as to how we can best serve our communities.

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Edinboro Volunteer Fire Department
125 Meadville Street
Edinboro, PA 16412

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