1. #1
    ken janis
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post Instituting a "fire tax" to fund the volunteer fire company. Pros & Cons.

    Dear Fellow Members,

    My volunteer fire company/fire department is kicking around the idea of asking the Township Supervisors to impose a 1 MIL "Fire Tax" in the town. Our current township budget allotment is about $90,000.00 a year and we fund raise another 75%. We run nearly 300 calls a year and our members can't do both. I am afraid of burning out our membership collecting money. The idea behind the "fire tax" would be to stop fundraising and rely on the tax. I would appreciate any thoughts good & bad about this.

    ken janis
    vp/ff www.forksfire.com

    ideas expressed & posted in the forum(s) are my own.

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I feel your pain, Ken. We get very limited support from our governing body. Lets just say its about 10% of what you get. Everything else is up to us! Needless to say, we call a mean game of bingo and have some hella-wicked spaghetti cooks! I (personally, not as a officer of my dept) look at it this way. The town is required by law to provide fire, police and ems to all its citizens as well as people passing through. Shouldn't all citizens support us equally? It seems the people who really scrape for the $25 a year need it the most.
    Currently, our yearly fund drive brings a return of about 50% on a good year. But yet 100% of the town receives the best service we can provide. For the record, we are a all volunteer co, running a 1990's quint, mid80's pumper and a squad, carry a Iso rating of 5-6 in town, and respond to 90 calls a year. Shouldn't we be able to devote a little more time to training?

  3. #3
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Ken, our department is in a similar situation, our township gives us the equivalent of 8 tenths of a mil. which is about $75,000. In 2000 we ran over 900 calls, 700+ fire and 200+ EMS. We still run BINGO, do a fund drive, Carnival, Car Show, Coin Toss, etc. to raise the rest of the monies we need to survive.

    We had talked abouta dedicated fire tax but so far have not moved on it.

    If you do here are some things to think about. Include either an automatic increase or have a built in review process of the fund levels. Talk about the bidding process for appratus and PPE, etc. Who will have the decision to accept or reject bids?, who will design the specifications?. Who will dispurse the funds? Will your insurance be paid from the same monies? In other word don't rush into anything without doing alot of homework.

    I do think its time for local goverments to give better support, they have been getting a bargin for years. But at the same time we have to be smart is our dealing wit them so we don't get the short end of the stick in the long run.

    Stay safe

    [This message has been edited by Fire/Rescue43 (edited 06-13-2001).]

  4. #4
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Ken, I know your dept., I know your area. (I work up there a day or two a week!). We instituted a fire tax a few years back. It wasn't well recieved when it was started, but it wasn't bad, either.
    IF you do it... DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Try a letter writing campaign explaining your options. Go door to door if need be.
    You're not a "rural" dept. anymore.
    You have a LOT of transplanted "city" folk from New York and Philly. They want the services that they are used to. Many of them don't even know what a volunteer is... or they think that volunteers work at the library or at Easton, Lehigh Valley, or Sacred Heart Hospital. (I know, I've been in a lot of their homes).
    You MAY even get new members out of it!

  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest


    My county has had a fire tax for 20 or so years and it really helps. As a matter of fact, our twice yearly Bar-B-Que suppers now go to a fund that we use to help members in the community. Two things that really make our system work are:
    1. Each fire department in the county is it's own legal entity that contracts with the county for fire coverage and sets their own rate and is therefore totally responsible to the citizens in their own district.
    2. The fire tax portion on each citizens property tax bill is listed as a separate line item. This way the citizen knows exactly how much is going to the department and knows it will get there. The county merely collects the money and distributes it accordingly.
    I think these two things eliminate the tendency for politics getting into the issue or fire money being lost in the general county budget. As far as equipment purchasing and large outlays of money, each department is on their own. One thing our department has done is to keep some of the yearly budget put aside in a truck fund for future purchases. This is easier than suddenly having to raise rates when you need a new truck. The one thing that can really help is having the department really involved in it's community. If you have a lot of new citizens in your area they may think they are already supporting you with the county or townships taxes, particularly if they from larger municiple areas as Firekatz04 said. I hope my rambling has helped. Good Luck, we've been in your situation and don't envy you a bit.

    Kevin Sink
    Fair Grove Fire Dept.
    Thomasville, NC USA

  6. #6
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs up

    I want to back up Fire/Rescue43. If you implement some form of a tax, then make sure you include some type of review process. My county got a assessment ($25 a house and $50 a business regardless of value) passed several years ago, but the amount is fixed in the statute and will require a referrendum to increase. Otherwise, it has been a godsend. We still have fund-raising events but we know that we will have a certain level of funding so it is much easier to conduct long term planning (banks are also a lot friendlier when they know you have guaranteed income).

    [This message has been edited by EFD840 (edited 06-15-2001).]

  7. #7
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We started out as a donation / fund raiser supported department, in unincorporated Harris County (about 4 miles north of Houston). In the mid 80's we were able to hold an election and establish a Rural Fire Prevention District, which allowed for a .03 per $100 tax -- $100,000 house pays $30. Eventually, that was not enough funding to support the huge growth in our area, and we held another election and converted to an Emergency Services District, which doubled the rate to $.06/$100. Many Texas VFD's and EMS systems are funded through RFPD/ESD tax districts. It just takes hard work and good public relations & education to convince the community of the need for adequate, reliable and consistant funding for thier fire department.

  8. #8
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Up here in British Columbia, Canada, my department is funded by taxes. We recieve a percentage of the property tax. This works well for us because we do not have a lot of homes or businesses, but a lot of prime forestry land and prospective development areas that are worth big $$ to someone.

    Every so many years the properties are re-assesed. Two years ago we were actually able to lower our tax rate and increase our budget. (got to love that)

    How well does this work? Our budget for this year (2001) is around 123K. I am not complaining, 6 years ago our budget was around 30K and the trucks and gear where held together by bailing wire and duct tape.

    As mention elsewhere, do your homework and keep the public informed about the choices being made. People do not embrace change if they are not given all the information on it. If they feel that they have input into the change, they will recieve it will. A little bit of public relations goes a long long way.

    Best of luck to you and your department.

  9. #9
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Our county has a fire tax. With the set purpose of helping volunteer companies. BUT we never see a penny of it. So it's back to BBQ chicken for that next engine unless of course we want to pull the fire engines by horse...

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