Feb. 22–ELKHART — A donation of used fire equipment turned an meeting on Monday into a discussion of whether the city helps Elkhart Community Schools too much.
The Board of Public Works approved donating a 1987 Pierce fire truck and 40 sets of used fire bunker gear to the school system. The $6,000 estimated donation — $4,000 for the truck and $2,000 for the bunker gear — left board Vice President Carol McDowell wondering why the city wouldn’t sell them at auction to raise a little money.
“I have seen over a number of years the city sell bicycles that were valued at $30 at auction in order for the money to be used for a number of things,” she said. “I do believe that 75 percent of our property tax dollars goes to fund the schools. There is also a community foundation that gives heavily to the schools and there is a private foundation that gives to the schools.”
McDowell said she is big supporter of the schools, but she questioned why city taxpayers were on the hook for another contribution.
“City equipment, in my opinion, should be reimbursed to the citizens whose tax dollars were used to purchase that equipment and not trivially given away by people who were not elected by those taxpayers,” she said.
Pam Kurpgeweit, a City Council member, said that she was also concerned about the donation.
“There are a number of purchases coming down the road in the next couple of years,” she said. “We have done quite a bit of annexing, and we are already talking about an additional fire station and additional firemen and equipment due to the wonderful growth in the community. There are also a number of people that are not very happy with the school system in general because of the massive amounts of taxes that go to the school system.”
Kurpgeweit proposed getting an appraisal for all the items to be donated and asking the school system to chip at least part of the value.
“That would help offset the cost to our fire department,” she said. “I do not believe that the city property taxes — the money people give — should just be donated to the school system who has a massive percentage of the taxes of the people.”
After further discussion the board voted to approve the donation of the equipment to the Elkhart Area Career Center. The equipment will be used in the school’s firefighting program.
The copiers/printers are the second major technology purchase for the city in 2017. Elkhart entered a $189,000, three-year lease agreement with Hewlett-Packard in January. The city is set to see 250 new computers, 26 of them laptops through the agreement.
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