By Brooke Rogers | CBS11 News

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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Voters in Arlington are facing a big decision on their May ballots that could put their fire department under control of the state.

Proposition 2 has both sides fired up, and the biggest point of contention… is the price tag.

It’s an award-winning fire department known for its quick response time, and City Council member Charlie Parker says Arlington Fire doesn’t need to be fixed.

“We really don’t have a problem, and we don’t want to wreck a wonderful fire department with civil service,” says Parker.

State civil service would mean that a civil service commission would take over the fire department’s duties for hiring, promotions and disciplinary procedures. And the three-member, unpaid commission would be appointed by the city manager.

“These standards that civil service will put in place guarantee that people will be hired and promoted based on their aptitude and not who they know,” says David Crow, President of  Arlington Professional Firefighters.

But opponents ask – at what price? City leaders say initial program costs, such as attorneys and office supplies would drain Arlington of about $350,000-$500,000 to start, with up to $420,000 in recurring annual costs. And they say that would hurt.

“There’s only a certain number of slices for the pie, and that particular expenditure that it’s going to cost us will come out of the fire department,” Parker says.

Plano adopted civil service for fire and police 45 years ago. The city manager says it uses existing employees for most duties, and additional costs are minimal  – some testing materials and an attorney to whom they paid $4500 last year. Supporters in Arlington say civil service won’t hurt Arlington’s budget or its people.

“We believe the citizens of Arlington are going to be safe after May 6 like they’re safe today,” he says.

May 6 is the date that proposition 2 will be decided by voters. It has been on the ballot here twice before – in 1979 and 1991 – and failed both times.

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