Letter: LOSAP Helps Retain Active Volunteer Firefighters

To: Philipstown Town Board Members, Garrison Taxpayers
From: Garrison Fire Department LOSAP committee
Re: Garrison LOSAP parity with neighboring towns

Our primary goal is to continue to provide fire and rescue services to our neighbors of the Garrison Fire Protection District, whom we have served since 1929.

To accomplish that goal, we face the difficult task of recruiting and retaining active firefighters. Many hours are invested in training new firefighters, and a good deal of money is spent on their gear (which is required by government regulations). We need to protect that investment.

One program that has been working across the nation is the Length of Service Awards Program (LOSAP), which provides active volunteer firefighters with a small pension benefit upon reaching retirement age. LOSAP programs are authorized and controlled by state laws. LOSAP not only helps recruit, but more importantly it helps retain active volunteers. Fire districts that provide LOSAP benefits are better able to keep volunteers active than those that do not.

All four Philipstown fire departments have LOSAP plans. However, the Garrison Fire Department’s plan offers half the benefits of the other departments’ plans. We would like to have LOSAP parity with other departments in our community. The Cold Spring, North Highlands and Continental Village LOSAP plans each provide a benefit of $20 per month for each year of service. Garrison’s LOSAP plan provides only $10 per month for each year of service. It is not only unfair to the existing Garrison Fire Department volunteers, it creates low morale problems leading to difficulties retaining volunteers.

In 2012 the Garrison Fire Company responded to 183 emergency calls for help, many occurring during the night when most citizens were home sleeping. Just over 3,250 man-hours were spent by unpaid volunteers responding to emergencies, as well as doing training, drills, public education, equipment maintenance, and all the many activities required to keep the fire station and its equipment operational and viable.

State law expressly prohibits retroactive benefits in LOSAP. This ballot proposal does not involve any retroactive payments in LOSAP to be awarded to any members of the Garrison Fire Department. It only brings the Garrison LOSAP plan in line with those offered by the other Philipstown departments going forward. The cost to the average Garrison taxpayer is about $14 per year in property tax.

Current fire levy = $603,255
Current rate = 1.583 per $1,000 assessed value (AV)
LOSAP increase = $24,000
New Fire budget w/LOSAP = $627,225
Approximate new rate = 1.646 per $1,000 assessed value
Average Taxpayer Difference  = $14 per year
If your AV is less than $250,000 you’ll pay about $9 per year.
If your AV is less than $500,000 you’ll pay about $23 per year.
If your AV is less than $750,000 you’ll pay about $38 per year.

The Garrison Fire Department consists of your neighbors and friends who are all taxpayers. We are volunteers because we care about our community and the people, our neighbors who live here, and in part because we believe it keeps our taxes low. The cost of a paid fire department could be greater than three times the cost of a volunteer department. By any measure, a LOSAP increase, which merely matches the existing plans of the other departments in our community, should be considered an economical deal for us as taxpayers.

Going forward our goal is to be transparent and to work together with the community to find solutions that are good for the community and beneficial to the fire department. To encourage volunteer firemen and women, we must provide a positive environment for people to offer their time. The alternative is that when the fire whistle blows, no one will respond.

We look forward to serving you in the years to come. Thanks for your anticipated help, and let us know how we can be of help in the future.

Garrison FD LOSAP Committee

Comments are closed.