Alternative Funding Sources For the Fire Service

As we move further into the 21st century, the base of our financial support is, in many areas, under attack. This is unfortunate, as the need for our skills and talents remains. What seems to be missing from the citizen/government interface is an...


As we move further into the 21st century, the base of our financial support is, in many areas, under attack. This is unfortunate, as the need for our skills and talents remains. What seems to be missing from the citizen/government interface is an understanding, on the part of the citizen, that there...


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Now let us suppose, for argument's sake, that you have no further access to added tax dollars. Let us also suppose that your organization is in cholesterol shock from having fried too many eggs and potatoes. And further, let us observe that one more 1950s dance or sock hop will lead to murder, mayhem and divorce. Where can you turn for help?

For government-supported, local, fire district and county emergency service groups, you may wish to pursue the concept of user fees. These break down into two basic areas of administration. The first are fees for goods consumed and the second revolves around fees charged for regulatory services. In either case, they are paid by the person receiving the service.

In New Jersey, a wide variety of user fees support the delivery of regulatory services under the Uniform Construction Code and the State Fire Prevention Code. Many communities fund their fire prevention operations through fees charged for the inspection of certain specific life use occupancies.

My research has discovered that in Williamsburg, VA, a special user fee was created and added to the cost of meals and hotel rooms. This fee is dedicated to the support of fire and emergency services. Their local research indicated the existence of a high level of transient emergency service demand. This was attributed to the tourist trade in that community. Because of this, it was felt that such a fee was an excellent way to receive funding from those people who were generating the demand.

In other sections of America, fees are being assessed for such diverse functions as potential fire-flow demand, possible fire equipment usage levels and EMS delivery assessments. The only limits are those that exist in your mind and in the mind of your legal counsel.

Where now can you turn for guidance? The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) has published two outstanding documents that outline alternative funding sources:

  • Federal Domestic Assistance Information
  • A Guide to Funding Alternatives for Fire and Emergency Medical Services Departments

Both of these documents are available from the USFA at 16825 South Seton Ave., Emmitsburg, MD 21727. I have read both and incorporated a great deal of their information into my consulting, writing and speaking assignments. These two books are in the "must-read" category for diligent fire and EMS leaders.

Remember, any time not spent fighting for funds can be devoted to training, drilling and preparing for that next real emergency. Let us get our fire and EMS people out of the kitchen and onto the training grounds.

DR. HARRY R. CARTER, Ph.D., CFO, MIFireE, is a Firehouse® contributing editor. A municipal fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ, he is the former president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. Dr. Carter is a past chief and active life member of the Adelphia Fire Company. Currently chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners for Howell Township District 2, he retired from the Newark, NJ, Fire Department in 1999 as a battalion commander. He also served as chief of training and commander of the Hazardous Materials Response Team. Dr. Carter is vice president of the American Branch of the Institution of Fire Engineers (MIFireE). He recently published Living My Dream: Dr. Harry Carter's 2006 FIRE Act Road Trip, which was also the subject of a Firehouse.com blog. He may be contacted at drharrycarter@optonline.net.