Ballot measures are used to help support local fire departments and firefighters when funds run low and more budget is needed. For first responders and firefighters, communicating our needs to the public before an election is essential when a ballot measure is on the ballot. It may mean the difference between new equipment, up-to-date training, or the lack of them.
Several key states held local elections in April 2023. In a handful of States, the ballots included several issues that directly affected local fire departments and the safety of communities at large.
So what was voted? And where were firefighters supported by their communities?
Wisconsin Ballot Measures
In Wisconsin, the Spring election on April 4th included a large number of local issues and initiatives. For first responders, the Town and City of Delafield jurisdictions were of particular importance. They are both served by the Lake Country Fire & Rescue, which is in dire need of extra funds.
The original initiative consisted of a simple referendum, asking for a modest increase in the county’s fire fee. In both jurisdictions, the measure passed! This result is expected to bring in nearly half a million dollars per year. The funds will help them deal with an ongoing staffing crisis and lower their response times which is a big win for those communities.
Missouri Ballot Measures
The state of Missouri is largely served by a highly-committed corps of volunteer firefighters. As a result, the citizenry usually defends and identifies with its first responders. During their April 4th election, these counties voted on firefighting issues:
- At Fair Grove, the local Fire Department asked people directly to approve a $3 Million bond, which would allow them to buy a new fire truck, hire new staff, and rebuild the fire station. The proposal failed by less than 2%.
- In O’Fallon, “Proposition F” requested a no-tax-increase bond issue to help re-equip the local fire station. It passed with over 70% of all votes.
Illinois Ballot Measures
In Boone County, IL, the ballot included a proposed raise of just 25 cents to the district’s property tax levy. This would provide a total of $8 million, which would help the local fire department adapt to the region’s increase in wildfires. It passed with over 60% of the votes.
Voters in Coal Valley also held the safety of firefighters in their hands. Here, the initiative involved raising approximately $100,000 per year. According to the local Fire Chief, Dave Dunham, the need for extra funds is critical: every time a resident calls for an ambulance, it costs the local Fire Department nearly $1,000. However, recent Medicare and Medicaid slashes mean they only get $400 reimbursed.
This modest increase in funding would come at the expense of an even smaller per-family contribution, of just 40 dollars a year. However, this bill did not pass.
Every time first responders request extra funding, lives are being decided. The few minutes added to response times, the changes in equipment quality, and the extra staffing can make a world of difference. And yet, Fire Chiefs rarely have the time to campaign for their needs with all their other responsibilities.
It falls to us, those of us who love and care for firefighters and first responders, to mobilize on their behalf and help them get the funding needed to continue serving our communities.