Marshfield to hold public meetings on increased taxes to retain first responders
MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) - In the spring election on April 4, city voters will consider increased property tax funding to support hiring and retaining nine firefighters/paramedics, one police officer, one Police Department records specialist, and one administrative assistant to be split between the Police and Fire departments.
Residents will be asked whether they support an increase in the levy by a total of 7.124%, which would result in an overall tax levy of $16,992,899, and, on an ongoing basis, would include the increase of $1,130,000 for each fiscal year going forward.
Our current public safety funding and staffing levels are insufficient to meet our community’s current and projected future needs. In 2022, the Fire and Rescue Department could not fill three open firefighter/ paramedic positions due to budget constraints - despite being the busiest year on record. Five currently vacant positions in the fire and police departments would remain unfilled, and they could remain vacant for some time due to the lack of other available funding sources.
Over the past decade, Marshfield Fire and Rescue’s staffing levels have remained stagnant – even though the calls for service have increased by 55%. In 2022, they responded to a record 4,074 calls for service. These staffing levels have made it difficult for the Department to respond to calls for service, as 25% of calls come in concurrently.
For the Police Department, recent budget cuts have prevented them from finding replacements for recently vacated positions, resulting in a strain on the Department to maintain the same level of service. With fewer officers available, the Department has a decreased capacity to carry out nonemergency department duties, such as proactive patrolling and participation in community engagement events.
If the referendum is approved, the annual property tax would increase by an estimated $78.45 per year for every $100,000 of property value, starting with the bills issued in December 2023. For example, the impact on a property valued at $200,000 would be $156.90 annually.
These challenges are not unique to Marshfield but reflect a broader trend across the state as police and fire/EMS departments struggle to meet the growing needs of communities.
“While our departments have risen to meet the needs of our community by working smarter, creating efficiencies, collaborating with stakeholders, and prioritizing what types of service we can provide, it has become increasingly difficult to provide services as expected,” said City Administrator Steve Barg.
“We are at a critical juncture to determine the level of fire and EMS services we want in our community,” said the City of Marshfield Fire Chief Pete Fletty. The City is holding three public informational meetings for those interested in learning more about the public safety referendum.
Those meetings are scheduled for:
March 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Second Street Community Center, Drendel Room.
March 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hotel Marshfield
March 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the UWSP-Marshfield Campus Connector hallway between the Science and the Stem buildings
For additional information, visit ci.marshfield.wi.us/referendum.
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