Letter to Taxpayers – Spring 2022

For the last several years, Benton Township has been preparing for a change in regard to fire and emergency services. Our previous system of a Township-owned Volunteer Fire Department was becoming fiscally and logistically unsustainable, so in 2020 we underwent a public process to join six other townships to consolidate with the Monroe Fire Protection District. The Monroe County Commissioners signed a resolution to finalize this consolidation and set the effective date of January 1, 2022.

Many of the outcomes that we discussed during the 2020 public meetings have come to reality:

Full Time Personnel
Since March 5, 2021, the fire station in a centralized area of Benton Township (7606 E. State Road 45) has had at least two full time staff members on duty to respond to emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Having these full time staff at our station has improved our emergency response time in the Township by an average of about 5 minutes (from an average of 13 minutes, 22 seconds to 8 minutes, 45 seconds).

In addition, these changes improved our ISO rate which could positively affect home insurance premiums, depending on the location of your property and your insurance company.

Fire Station Remodel
With a surplus of funds that would have paid for a final year of contracting with a career fire and emergency department, we invested taxpayer monies into a remodel of our fire station, upgrading our 40-year-old facilities by adding a third bedroom, restructuring a space for exercise facilities, and moving frequently used and larger trucks closer to living quarters.

Volunteer Firefighters
The Volunteer Corporation (a 501c3 organization) voluntarily dissolved March 2021, and any interested members were transferred to the Monroe Fire Protection District’s Volunteer Rosters. The Township continued on the annual Community Halloween Event with Smokey the Bear in Fall 2021, and we plan to continue a Mother’s Day community event in 2022.

Transfer of Property
Almost a year was spent discussing details regarding the transfer of land, building, vehicles, and equipment to the District (with contingencies), with the Township retaining ownership over the portion of the property that has Senior Center and Township Offices. The respective Township and District Boards are currently in the process of finalizing this paperwork.

Other Impacts
As a response to eliminating the responsibility of fire protection and emergency services, the Benton Township Board and Trustee’s salaries were decreased to the lowest amount allowed by law.

Kevin Robling was appointed by the Monroe County Commissioners to represent the taxpayers of Benton Township on the Monroe Fire Protection District’s Board of Trustees.

2022 Tax Rate
The 2022 tax rate for the District is lower than what we expected at the time of our public meetings. The Township fire and cumulative fire tax rates ($0.1132 total for both in 2021) will be replaced by the District rate ($0.2669 for fire, $0.0333 for cumulative fire, $0.3002 total). The Township will still collect a small portion of taxes ($0.0113 for Township Assistance, Cemetery Maintenance, Unionville Senior Center, etc.).

Benton Township’s total property tax rate is the 3rd lowest out of 11 townships in Monroe County, and the lowest among townships with a full time fire station. (summary page of 2022 Budget Order for Monroe County).

Recommendations
Property tax bills are based on a variety of factors including assessed valuation, tax deductions, and the tax rates of several entities that also collect property tax (Monroe County, School Corporation, Public Library, Solid Waste District, etc. in addition to Lake Lemon Conservancy District if you are in that area).

First, if you have questions about an unexpected increase in your assessed value, you may contact the Monroe County Assessor’s Office.

Second, we recommend that you check to make sure you have applied for as many property tax deductions as possible. Tax deductions work to reduce the amount of assessed value a taxpayer pays on a given parcel. To find out about deductions and which exemptions you may qualify for please see the Indiana Local Government Finance page on Property Tax Deductions.

Third, we recommend that you talk with your homeowner’s insurance to see if they base your premium rates on an ISO rating or a zip code loss basis. If they use an ISO rating, contact the Monroe Fire Protection District at 812-331-1906 to obtain a letter to submit to your insurance showing the improved rate. If your insurance does not recognize ISO ratings, then consider shopping around for other insurance companies that would give you a better rate.

Finally, if your tax bill creates a burden for you, please contact our office to see how our Township Assistance program may be able to help.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

RELATED INFORMATION
**Note: This process started right around the time that the COVID-19 pandemic started, so we had essentially two public hearing phases.

Herald Times articles (use your Monroe County Library card to access for free)
Benton Township considering joining fire protection district (02/14/2020)
Benton Township officials discuss joining fire protection district (07/28/2020)
Public input sought on Benton Township joining fire protection district (08/11/2020)
Benton Township gets OK to join fire district in 2022 (09/17/2022)

B Square Bulletin (free)
County commissioners agree to put Benton Township on path to join Monroe County Fire Protection District (02/13/2020)
Fire protection in Monroe County to be a fully involved topic in coming weeks (08/23/2020)
Benton Township now in Monroe Fire Protection District, Washington Township in queue (09/18/2020)

Documents
Monroe County Commissioner Resolution 2020-04

Other Links
Monroe Fire Protection District website
Department of Local Government Finance – Monroe County page