Jungfrau Zeitung – Bern municipal council launches debate

Fire service obligation | July 3, 2022

In the city of Bern, the controversial fire brigade replacement fee is ripe for discussion in the city council. The municipal council has passed the completely revised fire brigade regulations, as announced on Thursday.

The Bern municipal council hopes that the obligation to serve firefighters will generate additional annual revenue of around CHF 6.2 million.Photo: Keystone, Martial Trezzini

Anyone between the ages of 19 and 52 should generally be subject to compulsory fire service duty. Those who are not on active service must pay a replacement fee. The municipal council hopes that this will generate additional income of around CHF 6.2 million per year. He points out that the city of Berne is one of the last municipalities in the canton without a duty to serve as a fire brigade. Although there is a professional fire brigade in Bern, it is dependent on the support of the militia fire brigade.

The income should be earmarked and used exclusively for fire brigade purposes. At the same time, professional and militia fire brigades will receive less financial resources from the city’s tax revenue – in the amount of the incoming replacement gift. The municipal council writes that the introduction of compulsory fire service duty would also result in new administrative and organizational tasks. These would entail “a certain amount of human resources”. The message to Parliament mentions several full-time positions.

«Socially acceptable»

As part of the savings debate in September 2021, the city council generally spoke out in favor of compulsory fire service duty. However, he demanded that the levy be socially acceptable and therefore income-related.

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The City Council intends to meet this requirement. He points out that according to cantonal law, the amount must depend on taxable income anyway. In addition, it may not exceed 450 francs per year.

resistance in sight

Voters could have the last word. Because the SVP has been threatening a referendum for some time. She considers the fire brigade replacement fee to be contrary to the system because there is a professional fire brigade. In addition, she had been rejected more than once. The FDP has warned of a hidden tax increase in 2021.

The fire brigade replacement fee has been discussed occasionally since the 1970s. In 1974, the municipal council rejected it because they wanted to stick to the existing order out of tradition. In 1992 and 1996, the city council decided not to respond to further advances. On June 13, 1999, the people had the last word. At that time, those entitled to vote clearly rejected the introduction of compulsory fire service duty with around 26,000 against almost 12,000 votes.