Hike in Iredell County, North Carolina Fire-Tax Rate Requested

Iredell County residents who live in the countywide fire-tax district could see their fire-tax rate increase 1 cent next year.

Leaders of the county fire-tax commission are asking the county to raise the 5-cent-per-$100 property valuation rate to cover the increasing costs of running 12 volunteer fire departments.

"Operating costs have risen over the past two years due to increased population growth of the county and the age of the vehicles and the buildings," fire-tax commission Vice Chairman Frank Phillips said.

But at least one county commissioner said he could not support a tax increase, unless the fire-tax board lays out a plan to reduce departments' state inspection ratings, which in turn reduce homeowner insurance rates. In the state's eyes, departments with lower ratings have the resources to provide better fire protection.

Commissioners said they will consider the fire board's request during budget planning in May. The fire-tax board says the extra revenue can help pay for more equipment, more paid staff and newer buildings, which help departments reduce their ratings. Johnson wants details.

"To raise any tax out there, fellas, is a hard sell," he said. "If I go out there and try and sell it, what are (taxpayers) going to get for it?"

Usually, any reduction in homeowner's insurance more than offsets small fire-tax increases. If the fire tax were raised a penny, the owners of a $150,000 home would see their fire tax rise $15.

By comparison, a lower fire department rating can mean a 20 percent to 35 percent reduction in home-insurance premiums that cost hundreds of dollars, fire officials say.

A change to the countywide fire tax would not affect residents of the Mount Mourne, Shepherds and East Alexander fire-tax districts.

Distributed by the Associated Press