DOBSON — This week local volunteer fire departments had the opportunity to meet with a county commissioner subcommittee to present their budget requests.
Seven of the county’s 16 volunteer fire departments attended a meeting to present their requests for fiscal year 2011-2012 to the committee, which consists of Board Chairman Paul Johnson and Commissioner Garry Scearce. The county manager, assistant county manager for budget and finance, emergency services director and fire marshal were also present.
Of the requests Tuesday night, Johnson said, “I thought the majority of them were moderate. There were a couple that were probably a bit more than expected.”
He said the committee will work to try to get all the requests down to require no tax increases, though there may be situations where they cannot leave the rate the same.
Scearce said of the requests, “They’re reasonable. I just had some questions, and some of that I’ve been able to get answered today.”
Scearce said he is not for any type of tax increases that are not for absolute critical needs.
Four-Way Volunteer Fire Department was the first to come before the committee. It asked for a tax increase last year and received a 1-cent hike, from 7.5 cents to 8.5 cents on $100. Bruce Crigger with the department said it needs another cent. He said the department still needs to catch up with what was lost after the annexation which occurred a few years ago. He said the department has a truck that desperately needs replacing. According to county budget books, the department’s expected expenditures will fall from $246,474 in the 2010 budget request to $224,148.24 in 2011. The 8.5-cent tax rate was expected to generate $145,008 in fiscal year 2010-2011.
Westfield VFD would like at least a penny-and-a-half increase, according to department representatives who attended the Tuesday meeting. They said the biggest expense would be the replacement of a roof. The lowest bid was more than $43,000. The money requested rose from $80,241 to $94,139. Shelton said historically this group has not asked for increases. The department also expects funding cuts from Stokes County, where it also answers calls. Its rate remained at 4.7 cents last year, which was projected to generate $61,318.
Franklin is asking for a 1-cent increase, with a dollar request of $316,282. The department budgeted for its expenditures to decrease slightly. Last year it got a 1-cent increase, from 5.6 cents to 6.6 cents, to help pay for its new building. Representatives with the department said it needs extra funds due to the mortgage. Debt service is projected to increase. The commissioners went over several line items with the department to determine what exactly they needed. Last year 6.6 cents was projected to generate $233,050 in revenue.
Bannertown has a request of $236,500, lower than last year’s request of $310,654, but a 1.5-cent increase is likely needed to get the requested amount. The department wants to put back $30,000 for the new building it will have to build in a year or so. The Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Authority wants to purchase the department’s Holly Springs station to have the land for its expansion. The department would put up a new building at the end of the expanded runway. Johnson said the department does have a unique situation. Scearce asked why the department’s telephone line item was $13,595. He requested a detailed report outlining the different costs in that line item. Last year the commissioners kept Bannertown’s tax rate at 5.5 cents, which was projected to generate $187,704 in revenue.
South Surry is not asking for a tax rate increase. Thompson said it would need about a half-cent increase to reach its requested dollar amount, but the representatives said they did not want to upset people by requesting an increase. They hope the tax base will increase. The department is asking that the rate not be cut. The department is requesting $148,200, up a few thousand dollars from last year. Last year its rate was kept at 5.5 cents, projected to generate $136,752.
Pilot Knob also is not interested in raising its tax rate, though the department hopes to get close to the $129,000 figure. Johnson said he thinks they will be close to that number. Pilot Knob will be debt free in a few months but wants to put some money in savings, representatives said. Its rate was kept at 4 cents last year, which was expected to generate $121,421.
Skull Camp is not requesting an increase either. Ricky Casstevens with the department said, “We think we can maintain for another year with what we have.” Casstevens said the department needs additional apparatus to get to the point it wants to reach, but it is looking for grants. The department’s request is $165,693. Last year its rate was kept at 8 cents, expected to generate $156,749.
Scearce, who is new to the fire department committee, looked closely at each department’s telephone line item. Some departments had cell phones included in its cost, while a few do not pay for any cell phones. He learned that the line item also contains things such as Internet and radio systems. He said the line item should really be called “communications.” Scearce also asked the departments if they were taking advantage of the fuel tax refund. Some were not aware that they could receive refunds of fuel tax they pay.
Though departments are not required to attend the meeting, the commissioners wondered why some departments did not attend. They recommend those departments attend who are going to request tax rate increases or need money for big buildings or other projects. Thompson said at the meeting that some departments, such as Central Surry, Pine Ridge, Shoals, and White Plains, would likely need tax increases to get the dollar amounts they have requested. He may call the departments that did not attend to see if they are asking for tax rate increases.
All volunteer fire departments submit budget requests, which includes the dollar amount needed from the tax district levy. The amount they actually receive depends on the collection rate, the size of the tax base, and the tax rate. The amount varies each year even with the same tax rate
Johnson said the county receives estimates each year on how much revenue each tax cent will generate based on the value of property in each fire tax district. He remarked, “We’re always normally pretty close.”
Of those that did not attend, Ararat VFD is requesting $92,300, down from $100,977 requested in 2010. The commissioners kept its tax rate at 8 cents on $100 in 2010 with an estimated revenue of $87,398. C.C. Camp has requested $114,174, up slightly from the 2010 request of $112,628. CC Camp’s rate remained at 6.5 cents last year with projected revenue of $100,589. Central Surry’s request has increased from $159,581 last year to $216,751. Central Surry’s rate remained at 6.1 cents with $150,382 revenue. Jot-Um-Down’s request remains in the $75,000 range. Last year its tax rate remained at 10 cents with projected revenue of $92,736.
Mountain Park’s request has increased by less than $1,000, rising to $115,025. Its rate was left the same last year at 7.7 cents with an estimated revenue of $110,806. Pine Ridge has requested $156,100, up from the request of $149,300 in 2010. Pine Ridge’s tax rate remained at 7 cents last year with projected revenue of $120,295. Shoals’ request has risen from $99,844 to $116,844. Last year the department’s rate was left at 6.5 cents with revenue of $84,365. State Road’s request is $79,000; last year it was $77,000. State Road’s tax rate remained at 4.4 last year with projected revenue of $73,160. White Plains is requesting $174,500, up from $172,700. Its rate remained at 6.8 cents last year with projected revenue of $155,954. All of those revenue estimates were based on a 96-percent collection rate.
The committee plans to meet one more time to discuss the budget requests, though a meeting date has not been set.
Contact Meghann Evans at 719-1952 or firstname.lastname@example.org.