What is a Fire Levy?
A fire levy is a tax that is paid yearly and will benefit all of the fire departments in Greenbrier County. This assessment will apply to residents, business/industry and large corporate lands. This amount will be added into your annual taxes. A levy allows for all of the above listed to contribute a fair amount to the maintenance of essential fire protection services. The fire levy, like any other levy, will be on both real estate and certain personal property (including automobiles, RV’s, etc.).
I currently donate to my local department through an annual “dues” statement. How is this different or better than that option?
Currently, many (but not all) Greenbrier County fire departments utilize an annual fire dues mailer that is sent to residents or businesses in the area they cover. These annual mailers rely on the voluntary response of those who receive the statements. In a recent survey of those departments, the return rate across all departments was not more than 45%. This means that less than half of homes and businesses are contributing a fair share for the upkeep of their fire services. A levy allows for all to contribute fairly for essential public safety services. It also takes a huge administrative burden off of the departments to prepare, mail and process the statements. Additionally, it allows for the following to contribute to fire services: absentee landowners; owners of derelict and abandoned houses, large corporate landowners (including coal, timber, railroad, utilities, etc.), out of area owners of recreational and/or “second home” properties. These previously mentioned examples are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to assess in the current systems. If the fire levy is approved, Greenbrier County fire departments will stop soliciting funds through any type of dues or subscriptions for the purpose of day-to-day operations! If you currently donate to your local department each year, THANK YOU! This will allow you to continue to do so, but in a more efficient manner and in a way in which all homes and businesses throughout the county contribute their fair share for essential fire protection and public safety services.
How much will it cost me?
The estimated cost will be on average $48.00 to $84.00 per year, or less than $1.00 to $1.60 per week! This is based on an average $100,000-$120,000 total aggregate assessment of both real estate and certain personal property. It is difficult to say exactly what each will pay, as each assessment is different. Some average examples for assessments on real estate (Class II) are as follows (the value of each example represents the fair sale cost if the home would be on the market):$75,000 = $36 $100,000 = $48 $125,000 = $60 $150,000 = $72 $250,000 = $120
Some average examples for assessments on personal property (Class III), including vehicles and RV’s, are as follows (the value of each example represents the fair sale cost of the vehicle on the market):$5,000 = $4.80 $10,000 = $9.60 $25,000 = $24 $35,000 = $33.60 $50,000 = $48
As an example, someone with a home valued at $100,000 and two automobiles valued at $25,000 total could expect to pay $72.00 per year, or $1.38 per week. This is a small price for the most basic and essential of our public safety and community services. By obtaining this amount, we will be able to afford to buy gear and equipment that meets the national requirement set by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and meet mandates set forth by the Insurance Services Office (ISO) and the West Virginia State Fire Commission.
What can this money be used for?
Expenditures allowed from these funds include: fire station construction, buildings and grounds, maintenance of buildings and grounds, utilities, telephones, television/internet service, insurance of all types, fire apparatus/vehicle acquisition, fire apparatus/vehicle and maintenance expenses of all types, office equipment - copiers, computer systems, fax machines and supplies, accounting expenses, training expenses - dues, mileage, meals, and lodging and the construction and maintenance of training areas, purchase of firefighting equipment - gear, SCBA units and purchase and maintenance, repair of communication equipment to help the department's strive for NFPA standards, retirement of debts related to any of the above. When not specified, allowable expenditures as detailed by State of West Virginia for fire department funding shall serve as a guideline.
What can the money NOT be used for?
Expenditures which cannot be made from these funds include: salaries for fire department staffing, emergency warning lights or sirens for the use by individual firefighters, dress or parade uniforms, badges or patches for individuals.
Why do we need the levy?
Due to the constantly rising cost of workers’ compensation, insurance, utilities, and fuel, most departments do not have enough money in their yearly budget to afford proper equipment for their firefighters. Without the levy, some departments could be forced to close their doors in the coming years. If this happens, it will take twice as long for the next closest fire department to respond to an emergency and it will make Homeowner's Insurance Premiums skyrocket.
With talk of county funding for a new pool, why can’t that money be used to support fire departments?
The money used to fund the proposed pool comes from the Hotel/Motel Bed tax. This is a tax that is placed on any hotel/motel room reservation and, as such, is nearly exclusively paid by persons from out of the county. The allowable expenditure of revenue from this tax is strictly limited by code and can be used for things generally related to recreation or tourism and cannot be used for any other reason, fire protection services included.
Why can’t the county commission provide funding for fire departments from its’ general fund?
Over the past several years, the County Commission has contributed a small amount to each department, ranging anywhere from $800-$1600 annually. This minor amount, though appreciated, is not a substantive amount in the overall operation of a fire department. With courthouse and sheriff’s department funding coming from the general fund, there is no additional revenue available from that to fund fire services. The levy will provide a dedicated revenue stream that can be used only for the operation and support of your fire departments. It cannot be diverted to any other purpose.
What is the purpose of a fire coordinator?
A Fire Coordinator will be hired to oversee and manage expenditures from levy proceeds. Many counties throughout West Virginia have a fire coordinator to provide support to departments, whether they have a fire levy or not. WV Attorney General’s opinion states that a County Commission cannot provide funding in a single lump sum annual payment, but rather each fire department must submit invoices for payment from their share of the levy. The Fire Coordinator will oversee this process while maintaining records of expenditures. This person will have fire service experience and know what allowable and appropriate expenditures are. The Coordinator will assist in soliciting bids for commonly purchased equipment on a county-wide level, instead of individual departments purchasing on their own. This will further save money by allowing equipment and services to be purchased in higher quantities. Additionally, the Fire Coordinator may assist on emergencies as a resource for safety, operations or as needed by the local fire department and as a resource during large-scale incidents or disasters. The actual operation of the fire coordinators office will likely never account for more than 5% of overall levy funding.
Who will benefit from the levy?
EVERYONE! All residents and business/industry of, and visitors to, Greenbrier County will have access to professionally trained and operating fire departments with proper equipment. The goal of every department is to provide the highest level of services possible to the county, as Greenbrier County deserves no less.
When will we be able to vote?
March 2, 2013
How will the Fire Levy benefit me?
Being able to maintain the stations, fire trucks, gear, etc., will maintain or lower each station's ISO rating. A communities’ ISO rating is what many insurance companies base premium rates on. Once the ISO rating lowers, so will your homeowner's insurance premiums! A communities’ ISO rating is primarily based on the local fire department’s training, equipment, staffing and a multitude of other factors. Every fire department receives an official ISO inspection on a regular basis. Your support of the fire levy will provide your local fire department the revenue it needs for day-to-day operations as each strives to improve its’ ISO rating. Additionally, think of your community without its fire department and how different it would be. The services provided by your fire department, such as during last summers’ derecho and subsequent power outages, are essential to support and maintain.
Where can I direct further questions regarding the fire levy?
Further questions regarding the fire levy can be directed to your local fire department. You can find additional information and contacts at the website for Greenbrier County fire services, www.gcfera.org
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