Guest Column Scotland County Fire Service
November 13, 2013
The Scotland County Fire Service has been operating with a 2-cent fire tax for the last 16 years, the lowest of any county surrounding Scotland County.
Hoke and Richmond counties have a 9-cent fire tax, Robeson County has a 9-to-15 cent fire tax, and Marlboro has 13.35 millage which generates $667,500 to support six fire departments. Scotland County’s 2-cent tax raises 225,000 to support seven fire departments.
To replace a fire truck with the same trucks which we have now would cost between $245,000 and $255,000 a truck. Our current trucks were $150,000 to $154,000 when purchased. It takes around $193,000 a year to fund the monthly expenses of the seven fire departments, and all of them were in the negative at the end of the year. This only leaves $32,000 for major equipment and truck replacement. At the current rate it would take around eight years to replace one fire truck and there are 14 trucks — 1 pumper and 1 tanker at each of the seven stations.
There are approximately 150 firefighters in the county and they are all volunteers who give their time away from family and friends, their fuel for the personal vehicles to go to fires, and sometimes loss of pay on their jobs to protect people they don’t know. Most importantly, they put their life on the line every time they go out. A set of turnout gear and air pack to outfit one firefighter costs about $8,500. These men and women deserve funding to have the best safety equipment and trucks to protect them on a fire. The fire departments are currently operating with fire trucks which range from nine to 18 years old, while experiencing frequent repairs.
We feel that we need a 3-cent increase in the fire tax, which would put the fire tax at 5 cents, which is far below the other counties.
Our firefighters also have to go through countless hours of training each year to meet the state requirements to keep your homeowners insurance from increasing. Yes, your homeowners’ insurance cost is based on the fire department’s ISO — insurance service office — rating, which is 6 to a 9 in this county.
The lower the rating the lower the insurance cost. If the ISO rating increases one grade or more, your homeowners’ insurance could increase from $100 to $300 per year if your house is valued at $100,000. If the house is of higher value then the increase would be higher. Three cents added to the fire tax on a house valued at $100,000 would cost $30 more a year in taxes, far less than the amount the insurance could increase.
Fire Departments are inspected to determine the ISO rating. The age of fire trucks, type, and pump capabilities, protective gear for firefighters, training records and training of firefighters, and response times all play a part in this ISO rating. Firefighters spend a lot of their time to keep the residents of Scotland County’s insurance as low as possible with limited funds. Also, remember firefighters respond to other emergencies and help protect your life and the life of your loved ones in many ways other than fires. If we did not have volunteers and had to replace them with paid firefighters, the cost would be over 4 million dollars.
The fire tax is one tax where the public gets their money’s worth many times over. The fire chiefs and the firefighters of Scotland County ask that the public support us in our effort to have adequate funding for the fire service of Scotland County.
Remember that firefighters are homeowners and pay taxes like everyone else.
This fire tax increase will not affect the residents who live in the city limits of Gibson, Laurinburg or Wagram.
We want it understood that the County Commissioners are not asking for this increase, but rather the fire chiefs and firefighters of the county are asking for you, the property owners, to support us in this effort so we can ask the county commissioners to increase the fire tax with the support of the homeowners behind us.
Stewartsville Fire Chief
Laurel Hill Fire Chief
Gibson Fire Chief
North Scotland Fire Chief
Spring Hill Fire Chief
Laurinburg Fire Chief