MORGAN COUNTY, Ind. --
As fire departments across the state shut down fire stations and lay off firefighters, the Morgan County Council will decide Monday if the Harrison Township Fire Department in can quadruple its budget.
The volunteer fire department wants an additional $220,000 levy to provide a paid, full-time fire department to the community of 1,600 people, 6News' Kara Kenney reported.
A document provided by the Department of Local Government finance read, "According to the (National Fire Protection Association), in 2007, 87 percent of all fire departments in the U.S. were all volunteer or mostly volunteer. Of those who were career firefighters in 2007, most (74 percent) served in communities that protect 25,000 or more people."
In Harrison Township, 56 people have signed a petition protesting the excess levy, which would mean an extra $100 tax for the average homeowner.
"Either they're unemployed or underemployed. They're struggling," Fred Roberts, who started the petition, said of his community. "$200 to $300 in taxes to some people around here in the poor areas is the same as $100,000 in taxes. They don't have the money. They just can't pay for it. I don't want to see anybody lose their property. "
Harrison Fire Chief David Allison told 6News that the department currently gets by with volunteers, when they're available, along with mutual aid from nearby fire departments. They don't have any volunteers during the day.
"Obviously, if there's a fire during the day, you need people to deal with it," he said.
Allison said taxpayers will save money with a paid fire department, instead of a volunteer force, through lower homeowners insurance rates.
Fire District Board member Richard Korra said he is concerned about taxpayers paying more, but that he thinks it's something the area should consider.
"Some are going to be hard pressed to afford it," he said.
The Morgan County Council will meet on the issue at 6:30 p.m. Monday. If approved, the Department of Local Government Finance would still have to sign off on the excess levy.
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