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April 14, 2014

Fire district workings explained

HARRIETSTOWN — At a recent meeting in Harrietstown, a legal expert outlined how a fire district works.

Mark Butler, a Buffalo-based attorney who specializes in fire-district organization, said it may seem counter-intuitive to add a new taxing entity in an era of shrinking government.

But consolidation gives “a single focal point for taxpayer and customer-service issues,” he said.

“All of the taxpayers would be paying the same rate for the same services.”

A fire district is a separate legal entity from the individual fire company, Butler said.

And there is a public-budget process, the attorney explained. Voting on fire-district spending occurs every October.

“The legal responsibility for fire protection comes off of (fire department) shoulders,” he said.

It is moved to a fire district board of commissioners — one of only four tax entities allowed in New York, along with village, town and school districts.

“It’s common to believe taxes and spending would run amok,” Butler said.

But he balanced the concern over declining volunteerism in small towns.

“What’s the longevity of the fire service as it currently exists?” he asked, rhetorically.

Email Kim Smith Dedam:kdedam@pressrepublican.com

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