Fire departments seeking tax hike must hold public hearings
By Jessie Burchette
Three volunteer fire departments seeking a 1-cent tax hike will be required to hold public hearings to gauge support or opposition.
And commissioners appear ready to tie the Rowan County Rescue Squad’s annual funding to a portion of a penny on the tax rate.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners, meeting in a budget session Tuesday afternoon, agreed that the departments ó Bostian Heights, Franklin and Locke ó must have the hearings.
The departments cited increased call volume, skyrocketing fuel and utility costs, insurance and other factors in requesting the tax increase.
Last year, commissioners agreed that any fire department seeking a tax hike will have to hold hearings.
Chairman Arnold Chamberlain said the board made the hearing requirement abundantly clear.
Commissioners indicated they will attend the hearings and their votes may be tied to public reaction.
The board also invited residents of the three districts to speak at the budget public hearing Monday at 6 p.m.
Bostian Heights will hold a hearing June 9 at 7:30 p.m. Locke’s hearing will be June 10 at 7 p.m. at the fire department. Franklin has scheduled a hearing for June 12 at 7 p.m. at the fire department at 4370 U.S. 601.
John Morrison, president of the Rowan Fire and Rescue Association, said late Tuesday he was not aware of the requirement for a hearing. Morrison said fire departments never received any notification, otherwise he would have pushed to hold the hearings in April.
Commissioner Jim Sides cited finance records showing the departments have received more than they have budgeted. Specifically, he noted that Bostian Heights budgeted $288,563 in 2007, but got $310,000 in tax revenue, 7 percent more than projected.
Sides said the proposed tax increase for each department would represent total increases since 2007 of 36 percent for Locke, 51 percent for Bostian Heights, and 52.5 percent for Franklin.
In a non-binding vote, commissioners unanimously supported a proposal by Chamberlain to dedicate just over three-tenths of a cent from county property tax collections to the Rescue Squad. The actual suggested figure of .0302 cents per $100 of valuation would provide the squad $337,000 in the fiscal year.
As the county tax base grows, the squad’s annual take would increase.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org.