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Fire consolidation talk renewed in Moriah

Supervisor would like to see a study

Fire district consolidation is again an issue in the town of Moriah.

Fire district consolidation is again an issue in the town of Moriah.

— Fire district consolidation is again an issue in the town of Moriah.

Increased worker compensation costs have led Moriah’s fire districts to ask the town for more funding for 2014. That increase, about $12,000 for the Moriah Fire Department and the Mineville-Witherbee Fire Department each, has town officials revisiting possible consolidation.

“I’m not saying consolidation is the best scenario,” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said. “I’m saying it needs to be looked at. It could save taxpayers some money.”

Moriah has three different fire taxing districts — the Moriah Fire District, the Mineville-Witherbee Fire District and a fire protection district for residents outside the Moriah and Mineville-Witherbee boundaries.

The Port Henry Fire Department is also in Moriah, but it is funded by the village of Port Henry.

“Workers comp for the fire districts used to be charged town-wide. That spread the costs out to all the taxpayers,” Scozzafava said. “Now it has be paid by the specific fire districts. That means they need to increase their budgets to cover it. It’s about $12,000 each.”

The Moriah and Mineville-Witherbee fire districts received about $18,000 each in taxpayer funding this year, Scozzafava said.

Combining the Moriah, Mineville-Witherbee and fire protection districts into a single fire district was discussed — and rejected — in 2005. It’s time to take another look, the supervisor said.

“Almost anytime there is a fire in the town all three departments (including Port Henry) respond,” Scozzafava said. “It’s almost like we have a town-wide fire district now, except for the funding.”

Creating a town-wide fire district would expand the tax base for fire protection and bring equity to taxpayers, Scozzafava said.

Now, Moriah’s three fire districts all pay different tax rates — Moriah $1.33 per $1,000 of assessed value, Mineville-Witherbee 95 cents and fire protection 88 cents. Using this year’s budget, a combined fire district tax rate would be $1.14.

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