MUNCY - Muncy Borough Council is preparing a fire tax of up to 3 mills that could be levied on local residents to pay for firefighting services.
Council President Elaine McAleer said Tuesday that now is the time to make the preparations, which requires a process that could take months.
"If the fire company comes to us in October and says we want a fire tax, we won't have time to do it," she said.
The borough's Keystone Hook & Ladder Fire Co., which is in the process of a merger with the Muncy Creek Township Fire Co., never has requested such a tax, and Keystone Chief Jamie Brelsford said last month the tax is the borough's idea, not that of the firefighters.
Keystone Assistant Chief Jim Michael visited council Tuesday in place of Brelsford, who reportedly was attending a family birthday.
Resident Tilly Noviello asked Michael if the borough could lose fire protection, but he said such a scenario isn't expected.
Michael said the Keystone Fire Co. gets a stipend from the borough, which likely would be nullified if a fire tax is imposed.
Noviello, however, said she remains concerned about the prospect of more taxes.
"Even if the stipend goes away, we get an increase in taxes," she said.
Borough solicitor Wilfred Knecht, whom council asked to conduct research, said it would be a real estate tax no higher than 3 mills.
Knecht said the tax money can be spent on a variety of fire department needs, ranging from vehicles, training and land acquisition.
Township officials should be approached to get a feel for their stance on a fire tax, Councilman Richard "Buzz" Baker said.
"It'd be fair to everybody in the whole community," he added.
The fire department merger with the township fire department is going well and bylaws are being drafted, according to Michael.
As far as other council issues go, borough Mayor Edward Dannemann would like to see some progress.
"We need to change the way we're doing things and get things done," he said. "We sit here and talk about it and still don't get things done."
Dannemann was referring to a variety of uncompleted borough issues, such as deciding which street lights should be removed to save on energy costs and enacting a storm water management ordinance for county compliance.
Borough Secretary Mary Lynne Rager said she will contact PPL to inquire about examining the street lights in cooperation with the borough police department.
Knecht said he can make available a sample storm water ordinance to help the borough devise and pass one by the county's March 15 deadline.