Report: Fire/EMS shortages threaten local public safety - 1

Town of Delafield Fire Department consolidated into the Lake Country Fire & Rescue fire department in 2021. Lake Country Fire & Rescue was started in June 2020.

DELAFIELD — The Delafield Common Council gave final approval to the city’s fire fee referendum Monday night, making only minor changes from previous versions aimed at making the April referendum question as voter-friendly as possible.

The $450 annual fee will be to fund fire protection and emergency medical services for Lake Country Fire & Rescue.

If passed, the $450 fee will be offset by a $705,000 reduction in the property tax levy, so a $500,000 property would see a decrease in taxes of about $195, according to city officials.

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“A ‘no’ vote would oppose the assessment of a fee, which would worsen response times due to the continued closures of fire and emergency medical stations,” the referendum says.

The fee would begin on the December 2023 tax bill in order to fund the 2024 budget and would be subject to annual adjustments as determined by the Common Council, according to city documents.

Other municipalities

Delafield is one of two municipalities going to referendum this spring to fund the proposed budget increases for the understaffed and underperforming fire district. The Town of Delafield will also be going to referendum for a tax levy increase of $470,000.

Of the other five communities, Nashotah is planning on doing neither a fee nor a referendum. Instead, the village is going to postpone two capital purchases — a police car and snow plow truck — in order to fund their portion of the budget.

“The board talked about a fire fee,” said Cindy Pfiefer, village administrator, clerk and treasurer for Nashotah. “We weren’t really a proponent of that because it does take it off the tax roll, but then it’s put down as a separate fee that taxpayers can’t deduct from their taxes, so it’s kind of like robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Oconomowoc Lake has not discussed its plan yet, but will not be doing a referendum, according to Village Administrator Jason Janicsek.

In Wales, officials have been considering a fire fee, but have not made a final determination. Further, the village is working with local state legislators to change the formulas that determine how much money local governments get from the state, Village Administrator Gail Tamez said.

At a joint meeting with all seven municipalities in early January, officials agreed that state-level policy contributed to LCFR’s funding issues.

Officials with Chenequa and Town of Genesee did not respond to The Freeman before deadline.