Lansing Fire District

Lansing Fire Commissioners approved the 2020 $1,494,487 budget Tuesday after a public hearing at which no one spoke.  While the tax levy has risen slightly from this year's budget, District Treasurer George Gesslein says the tax rate will actually decrease.

"We make sure the chiefs have what they need within reason," said Fire Commissioner Larry Creighton. "They have been very good with controlling the budget."

Gesslein summarized the budget, explaining that excluding apparatus (vehicle) purchases there hasn't been much change in the budget.  This year's levy is about $40,000 more than last year, but is $11,809 below this year's tax cap limit imposed by New York State.  The 2019 budget was $2.5 million, but over a million of that came from apparatus reserves to pay for new fire trucks, notably a heavy rescue vehicle.  This year Gesslein says only about $200,000, also from reserves, is needed for a few small vehicle purchases, so budget to budget normal expenditures are about the same, rising only with the cost of living.

"We anticipate spending $1,494,487 next year," Gesslein said. "We're going to have revenues of, maybe, $10,000.  We're going to use some unreserved fund balance from this year of $100,000.  So we're going to raise $1,384,487 in property taxes. The tax rate is now 93 cents per thousand for 2020, which is a penny less than it was this year."

A new pumper tanker fire truck is on order, but has already been paid for in full.  The District's policy of collecting money in reserves ahead of time and paying in advance for new apparatus has meant significant savings to taxpayers, because there is no interest on loans, and the District receives a discount for paying in advance.

Commissioners say they save taxpayer money by using a 20 year capital plan that is revised each year.  The plan predicts when specific fire trucks will need to be replaced, as well as capital improvements to the district's four fire stations.  It takes into consideration reserve funds that are added each year so the money is available when it is time to buy apparatus.  The plan also projects the tax rate for each year, with only a few cents change in the 20 year life of the plan.  That allows them to pay cash in full when they order a new truck, which gives the district a discount on the total cost.

"The big trucks are coming in a little less than we projected, which is nice," Gesslein said. "We knock of about $30,000 by paying cash, and the trucks are coming in at $100,000 less on top of that.  That gives us money to pay for the other stuff.  Whether we can continue to reduce the tax rate, I don't know. But I think the commissioners are happy doing that if it provides us with the service we need."

That also means no loans.  The page in the printed budget that reports on debt is a series of zeros.  That is how much debt the district has - zero.

"We update it every year," Wagner said.  "It seems to be working, so we're going to keep going that way.  It's nice not paying any kind of interest on those purchases."

Although the public hearing was advertised for several weeks, including on the Town of Lansing Web site, nobody attended it.  Fire Commission Chair Robert Wagner said that is not unusual for district budget hearings.

"When we go to conferences and they ask for a show of hands from people who had the public come to their public hearings," he said. "Maybe one of them has a couple."

The commissioners approved the budget 3-0.