3 Districts in North Carolina Request Increase to Fire Tax

Lincoln County department directors asked county commissioners Tuesday to consider raising fire taxes in three fire districts, purchase three new ambulances and hire additional employees for the health and water departments, among other requests.

Much discussion centered on requests from the Denver, East Lincoln and Alexis fire chiefs to increase fire tax rates in their districts. Denver and East Lincoln, both with a current rate of 4.5 cents per $100 assessed value, requested tax increases to 5 cents and 7 cents respectively. That means a person living in a $200,000 house in the Denver fire district, for example, would pay $10 more in taxes.

The Alexis Fire Department, which also has a tax rate of 5 cents, wanted to increase the tax rate to 6.5 cents to pay for two additional part-time firefighters. Bryan Robinson, the Alexis fire chief, said demand has outpaced volunteer availability, and the station sometimes had only one fireman, or even no one, to respond to calls.

Commissioners agreed to raise the tax rates in East Lincoln and Denver fire districts to 5 cents and the rate in the Alexis district to 6.5 cents.

Some of the most expensive requests to purchase items came from Emergency Medical Services Director Ronald Rombs, who requested $185,000 to buy three new ambulances, among other items. Two of the new ambulances would be smaller bus-type vehicles and could be used as non-emergency transportation to supplement EMS revenue through fees for service. The third ambulance would replace a worn-out vehicle.

Others, including Lincoln Health Director Margaret Dollar and Public Utilities Director Steve Gilbert, made pleas for additional employees.

Dollar wants to hire a physician's assistant to replace a part-time physician who retired from the county's health clinic. The new position would allow the clinic to accommodate more patients and would be cheaper than hiring a full-time physician.

Gilbert said two new plant operators were needed to properly staff the Forney Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and reduce the amount of overtime pay the county pays employees there.

Commissioners made no decisions on the other requests. Their next budget workshop will be at 1 p.m. Monday and they expect to approve the budget June 20.

Distributed by the Associated Press