Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Representatives from four county fire departments attended the Tuesday, May 28, 2019 Edmonson County Fiscal Court meeting to discuss their support for a slight increase in fire dues before the 2019 property tax bills are issued in November.
According to Judge Executive Wil Cannon, County Attorney Greg Vincent requested each county fire department: Lincoln, Kyrock, Bear Creek, Brownsville, Chalybeate, Rocky Hill, and Chalybeate submit bank statements, a financial statement, and other records that could show each respective department's state of financial affairs. County Treasurer Tammi Willhite said not all departments complied with the request for information.
Chiefs or representatives from Kyrock, Lincoln, Wingfield, and Chalybeate were at today's meeting and discussed the continuous growing financial demands on county fire departments but with revenues that don't really ever increase. Edmonson County property owners currently pay $25 per year in fire dues.
Lincoln Fire Chief Steve Sanders said one could take a look at some neighboring counties' dues and see that they are $35 and up. Edmonson County property owners currently pay $25 per year in local fire dues, which are included in each property tax bill. Sanders went through a short list of bills that Lincoln recently acquired which included a $204K tanker truck, which more that $150K was borrowed for the purchase, a $10K/yr insurance policy, and the constant need for updated turnout gear for firefighters that can be as high as $3K per firefighter.
Lannie Deweese, one of Kyrock's representatives, said that increasing the current dues from $25 to $30 was not a want, but rather a need. He also described several recent and upcoming expenses from his department that included an estimate of $22K in turnout gear alone that will be required by regulations next year.
Deweese also noted that some departments had been put in an even worse financial bind due to poor management by the respective fire department boards. Each department is made up of elected boards that make the larger financial decisions. Deweese said it was imperative that each department be held accountable for financial decisions made, and Judge Cannon agreed and noted that that was the whole purpose of the County Attorney requesting financial information.
Judge Cannon noted that fire dues were first added to property tax bills in 2008 and there have been no requests to increase them during that time period. Dues have remained at $25 per year for even several years before that. It was also noted that while each tax payer had the right to opt out of the automatic payment, the county has an approximate 95% participation rate according to county PVA Kyle White. The opt out choice is a result of the money being a due, not a tax. Specific taxes listed on property tax bills are required by law while dues are options.
The fiscal court must vote on whether to include the increase on the 2019 property tax bills or not. Treasurer Willhite noted that the County Attorney, who could not attend today's meeting due to district court, would not be able to give an accurate report until all the proper information was submitted for review.
Emergency Management Director Terry "Moose" Massey, who is a member of both Chalybeate and Brownsville Fire Departments, asked the treasurer to create a form that outlined the requested information more clearly, to which she agreed.
A motion was made to table the item until the next meeting by Clark Wood and seconded by Edd Rich, so that the proper information could be submitted and reviewed by the County Attorney. The motion to table the vote passed.