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Ronan City Council authorizes 10-mill tax levy

RONAN — In a Ronan City Council Meeting on Monday, the council  authorized a tax levy of 10 mills for the Ronan Fire Relief Association, a fund set up for retired firefighters and distributed by the Ronan Volunteer Fire Department Board of Trustees.

The city authorized the full 10 mills after hearing from Ronan Volunteer Fire Department Treasurer Alan Unruh and several other firefighters in attendance.  

In November of 2008, voters approved a tax levy that would implement between one to 10 mills for the Fire Relief Association. 

“At that point, we thought we had it all covered,”  Unruh said.

But, due to a mix up with the city, the proposed tax levy and the exact amount of mills were not discussed until Monday, and the tax levy will not be implemented until November, 2010.

“Hopefully we’ve dotted all the i's and (the money) will be there,” Unruh said. 

According to Unruh, the association is $61,000 short of being fully funded, according to levels set by the state. The fund should have $127,000 in reserve, which is .21 percent of the assessed value of the city. 

This year, the fire department will have to dip into those reserves to pay $50 per month to their retired firefighters.

Since 1999, retired firefighters have received $50 a month from the Fire Relief Association. From 1994 to 1999, retired firefighters received $100 per month, and prior to 1994, retired firefighters received $75 per month from the association.

Due to lower interests rates and an increased number of retired firefighters, the Fire Relief Association decreased the $100 stipend by half in September of 1999, Unruh explained.

In 2007, the city informed the association that they had no money for the fire department, and the department was asked to start a budget 

The fire department budgeted for $15,000 in 2008, but the city responded that no funds were available. The fire department then asked for a special tax levy to be placed on the ballot in November of 2008 for the association, and the voters approved a levy for up to 10 mills.

The fire department will not have access to the new funds until the end of 2010. With the funds, Unruh hopes that the Ronan Fire Department Board of Trustees will raise the retired firefighter’s stipend from $50 to $75 per month. Unruh also hopes that within 10 years, the association's reserves will meet the level recommended by the state.

Currently, there are 34 firefighters in the Ronan Fire Department. And according to Unruh, there are 15 retired firefighters and three or four firefighters are on the brink of retiring. The association spent $9,000 on retired firefighters last year. 

A 10 mill raise equals about $30 per year for a $100,000 house, and $60 per year for $200,000 house.

“I think we should go ahead and approve the 10 mills,” council member Marsha Ganieany said.

After the discussion, the council voted unaminously to approve authorization of the mills.

After a brief discussion on the many qualified applicants to the vacant city council member positions, the council appointed two new city council members to the Ronan City Council.

Ellen Kaphammer and Paul Soukup will be sworn in as the newest members of city council at the next city council meeting. 

The council was also introduced to the newest member of the Ronan Police Department, Troy Rexin. Rexin moved to the area from Livingston and was hired by the Ronan Police Department through the COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grant. He will start Feb. 9. The members of the council expressed an enthusiastic welcome to the recently hired police officer. The next city council meeting will be held on Feb. 8. 

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