BY KARISSA MILLER
The Iredell County budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 will not include an increase in the all-county fire service tax rate.
The rate will remain at 9 cents per $100 valuation of property value. The estimated levy collected at the 9 cent tax rate will be $14.5 million, according to county budget analyst Caroline Taylor.
The Iredell County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the budget on Tuesday, June 7. The meeting will be heled in the Government Center located at 200 S. Center Street in Statesville.
Voted-in fire tax districts
Until three years ago, across the county there were four voted-in fire tax districts that set their tax rate based on the needs in these respective districts. Those are Mt. Mourne, Shepherds, Stony Point and Troutman.
The county chose to set the four voted in fire districts at zero when they became part of the all-county fire service district.
The revenue generated by the all-county fire service district tax covers operations expenses, staffing, apparatus replacement, insurance, hydrants, radio replacements, equipment, and debt service.
Additional funding request for staff, aging building
Two former voted-in fire tax districts, Troutman and Mt. Mourne Volunteer fire departments, both requested additional funding for their districts during the commissioners’ budget work session on May 20.
During that meeting, Troutman Fire Chief Wesley Morris said that the department needs extra money to hire additional firefighters and to keep up with the cost of serving the growing southern end of the county.
Morris said he’s requesting funding for six firefighters and promoting someone to a captain position. The total cost to hire six firefighters is $300,000 and promoting a captain is $30,000, which brings the total to $330,000.
Troutman VFD proposed setting their zeroed-out voted in tax rate at one-cent to cover the cost of personnel. It is estimated to generate $262,970, according to county finance officials, which still leaves them short of their personnel goal.
Troutman was also asked to share with the residents in that voted in tax district their request to the commissioners to increase the voted-in tax rate by a penny and why it is needed, which they did, officials stated.
Commissioners hope the additional penny in this voted in tax district is a temporary measure until the revaluation figures come in, which will be for the 2023-2024 budget.
Mt. Mourne Fire Assistant Chief Steve Robbins along with board chairman Wayne Turner came before the board to request additional funding for renovations and improvements to their building.
The building is more than 20 years old and is in need of an HVAC system, dormitory space for female firefighters and bringing everything up to ADA compliance. The estimated cost is $2,050,000.
Robbins said on June 3 that nothing will be added to boost funding for the renovation project at Mt. Mourne station because the deparment anticipates the increased revenue from the countywide levy.
“The request to adding monies to our voted-in fire district has been removed from the table. Based on the timeline of when the project is going to start and when the debt service is going to begin and based off future funding that’s projected,” Robbins said.
About Volunteer Fire Departments
Volunteer fire departments are private, nonprofit corporations contracted by the county to provide fire protection in the districts they serve.
According to County Attorney Lisa Valdez, in order for a volunteer fire department that has a voted -n tax district to increase its tax rate, state law requires the department’s board of directors to approve it before making the request to the commissioners.