LANSING — Training and education for Michigan firefighters would expand under a recently proposed bill to increase the kind of training allowed to be funded from a tax on fireworks.
“The bill would ensure that money designated for fire safety training can be used for such,” said Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, the bill sponsor. “It would allow us to provide enhanced and more complete fire safety training across the state.”
Funding for firefighter training is made available through the safety fee assessed on the sale of all fireworks and is set aside within the Fireworks Safety Fund.
“Money has been building in this account,” said David Glotzbach, chief of the Muskegon Fire Department and vice president of the Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs. “That’s designated directly to firefighter training and allocating it to get to the firefighters has been a struggle.”
According to the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act of 2011, all of the money received from fireworks safety fees must be used for the training of firefighters. This bill would expand the definition of the kind of training the funds can support. That expansion includes such things as emergency medical service, hazardous material response and technical rescue.
Total safety fees collected were $674,689 in 2013 and $1.9 million in 2014, based on fireworks sales of $17.5 million and $26.5 million, respectively.
The fee is assessed on each firework transaction. It amounts to 1 cent on transactions between 8- and 24-cents and 2 cents for transactions between 24- and 40-cents. It continues up to a 6-cent fee if the transaction is between 88-cents and $1.04. The fee is 6 percent on larger amounts.
The total Firefighter Safety Fund was up to about $6 million in 2015 but is still being counted, Glotzbach said. Of that, $2 million has been allocated for training.
In the past, certain types of firefighter training were declined as an unjustifiable use of the fund, said Hansen. “The Firefighter Training Council and LARA (Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs) have the money. We need to make sure it’s going to the firefighters for the training they’re entitled to.”
A LARA official cited a specific formula that determines the distribution.
“Historically, even though the legislature appropriated $1 million for training, it has to go out to local units by formula,” said Allan Pohl, deputy director and chief financial officer for the department. “The formula is based on 70 percent population, and 30 percent square mileage of the county.”