Firefighters Hope To Get Funding From Tax Payers - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

7/24/06-Smith County

Firefighters Hope To Get Funding From Tax Payers

Smith County volunteer fire departments are banding together to get a proposal put on the November ballot. They're trying to get an Emergency Services District 2 established, which would mean your tax rate would go up. Emergency Services District 2 would be made up of all of the volunteer fire departments, except for Lindale, because that city already has an Emergency Services District.

Many volunteer firefighters gathered in commissioner's court this morning for a briefing on the matter and to show their solidarity towards the cause. 

Establishing the tax rate could save residents a couple of hundred dollars on homeowner's insurance. The Bullard Volunteer Fire Department is one of the 11 volunteer fire departments across the county that would make up Emergency Services District 2.

"A lot of the equipment we're using is over 20 years old. And, this would allow us to budget in to replace that equipment and bring it in to newer standards and to bring our firefighter training up to newer standards and more firefighters," said Bullard Volunteer Fire Department Chief Keith Newburn.

With essential firefighting equipment for each firefighter being worth $6,000, Newburn says it adds up.  An agency called the Insurance Services Organization rates each department on the quality of their fire station. The scale runs from one to ten, with one the best and ten the worst. A better rating for your area's department might mean a lower homeowner's insurance rate.

"The average homeowner can expect to save anywhere from $200 to possibly even $400 a year on insurance premiums," said Chief Newburn.

The Lindale Volunteer Fire Department is the only one is Smith County that has had an Emergency Services District in place. It's been around since 1996. "We used to have to worry about whether we had the money or not to put gas in the trucks and we don't have to now because of the tax revenue that we receive," said Lindale V.F.D. Safety Officer Mike Collins.

Collins says after the fund was set up, their rating went from a seven to a four. "One homeowner that I talked to earlier today said her insurance dropped $111 a year," said Collins.  In Lindale, a homeowner whose property is worth $100,000 pays $50 a year for the Emergency Services District.   

"We see the benefits. We just want to be sure the public sees the benefit from it," said Newburn.

Chief Newburn says the Bullard volunteer fire department can expect to get up to $105,000. That's if if the tax revenue is 5 cents per $100 valuation. Four public meetings are scheduled to take place in the coming weeks. The time and place is yet to be determined.  

Oralia Ortega, Reporting.


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