Saline Approves Increased Fire Department Budget, Authority Issue Looms


The cost of operating the Saline Area Fire Department continues to rise.

The annual budget is increasing from $2,079,755 to $2,445,391.

At Monday’s meeting, Saline City Council voted to approve the department’s operating budget which includes the city’s share of $711,000 for operating expenses and $50,000 for capital improvements. The city will levy the voter-approved 1-mill levy against city taxpayers to fund its share of the expense. In addition, the city anticipates dipping into its general fund to pay its share of operating and capital improvement costs.

The city is responsible for 34 percent of the department’s operating budget, with Lodi, York and Saline Township funding the rest.





City of Saline



Lodi Township



York Township



Saline Township



City of Saline Manager Coleen O’Toole said the cost increases could have been higher. The Saline Area Fire Board originally received a proposed budget from Fire Chief Jason Sperke that was substantially higher than the one acted on at Monday’s meeting. O’Toole said each municipality sent a representative to meet again and discuss the budget.

“We were able to come to a more agreeable term for overall operations,” O’Toole said.

Operations were up about 15 percent.

The capital improvement revenues are doubling to $150,000 - a little more than $50,000 from the city. The department is expected to spend $65,000 on a new SUV.

“I do feel that under this current budget the immediate safety needs are being met adequately. Chief Sperle has developed a strategy of changing out turn out great each year so they don’t get in a position again in the future of having an exorbitant number of those expiring in any given time,” O’Toole said.

O’Toole said there was not an immediate need for a new fire truck.

Overall, the city’s expenditures on the department are expected to jump from $665,320 to $762,376 this year.

O’Toole said the SAFD’s annual budget has increased by nearly 60 percent since she became city manager 3 ½ years ago.

O’Toole said the department is contributing to a corrective action plan with the state on unfunded liabilities and noted that the department’s contribution to the plan will increase significantly in the future.

As late as 2021, the city absorbed its share of the fire department budget without levying the special assessment against taxpayers.

In the near future, the way the Saline Area Fire Department could be funded differently. Currently, it's funded by the city and three townships through an interlocal agreement. Chief Sperle and local leaders are pressing for a state law that would allow the Saline Area Fire Department to be funded by funded instead by an authority. That's not currently allowed because the SAFD covers only a portion of York Township (the other part is served by the Milan Fire Department) and the state law that governs authorities does not allow authorities to represent only portions of communities.

Without forming an authority, the SAFD can't be funded by a millage or bond issue approved by voters throughout the coverage area.

The Saline Post contacted State Rep. Felicia Brabec about HB 4360, which would amend the law governing fire authorities and allow Saline to create one.

"It would allow municipalities to create an emergency services authority and in the creation of that authority, the municipalities get to determine the boundaries of that authority," Brabec said, talking about the bill.

She said there are plenty of reasons why a fire authority might only cover part of a municipality. With the departments of Saline and Milan splitting York, it's about safety and response time. Other communities may have railroad tracks or rivers that cause communities to set authorities that split communities.

"This bill allows for the local members to decide those boundaries. They could decide that an entire municipality should be served, but they could also have the flexibility to collectively decide that part of a municipality should be included in the authority. This is what the bill does. It allows the members of the authority to decide the boundaries of said authority," Brabec said.

The bill is currently in the Senate Local Government Committee.

"Hopefully it will be voted out of committee soon. Then we will advocate for it to be taken up in the Senate," Brabec said.

Saline Mayor Brian Marl and Fire Chief Jason Sperle testified in favor of the bill, which has the support of the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Townships Association.

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