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Stanly commissioners deny tax rate increase request from West Stanly Fire Department

The Stanly County Board of Commissioners denied a request by the West Stanly Fire Department for an increase in its fire tax rate.

At a recent regular meeting of the commissioners, West Stanly Fire Chief Dakota Raborn made a presentation to the board.

In the presentation, Raborn said the area covered by WSFD is “facing exponential growth on a tax rate designed for volunteer fire departments.”

WSFD employs 40 firefighters which respond to approximately 1,000 calls each year. Calls include fire, emergency medical care, heavy rescue, high-angle and swift water rescue.

The presentation states WSFD hopes to transition to a full-time fire department, needing construction work at Station 3 and a remodel of Station 1. A rescue vehicle and an engine need to be replaced along with personal protective equipment and current mobile and portable radio systems.

In the presentation, WSFD compared itself to Albemarle’s fire department, funded by the city council. Both have a fire ISO rating of 3 with Albemarle covering a population of 16,246 and West Stanly at 10,152. With tax bases of $1.2 billion and 1.1 billion, respectively, Albemarle has three shifts at three stations with 10 personnel per shift, while WSFD has two stations with five personnel working Monday through Friday and four on weekends.

Albemarle’s fiscal 2021-22 year budget is slightly less than $5.1 million while WSFD’s budget, passed Monday by county commissioners without the tax increase, is $1.1 million.

Raborn and other WSFD representatives met with commissioners at recent county budget workshops.

At the most recent meeting Monday, Raborn addressed concerns from some commissioners over inflation and increases in building material costs.

“(Inflation) doesn’t just affect tax payers; it affects us, too,” Raborn said, referring to consumables like fuel, medical supplies and gear. “I can’t reason why not getting a tax increase makes sense.”

Chairman Bill Lawhon asked about the additional revenue the department will receive in taxes during a year when property values increased because of revaluation.

Raborn said that money would pay for a fifth person on the night shift, with the rest of the money going to debt services.

Commissioner Scott Efird moved to increase the tax rate by one penny to 11 cents, which would have meant an increase to $1.2 million, approximately a $100,000 difference.

Vice Chairman Tommy Jordan seconded the motion, with Efird, Jordan and Peter Asciutto voting for the motion. Zack Almond, Mike Barbee, Lane Furr and Lawhon voted against the motion.

Barbee followed with a motion to keep the WSFD tax rate at 10 cents, seconded by Furr. Both voted for the motion, along with Barbee and Lawhon, while Asciutto, Efird and Jordan voted against it.

In comments made the day after the board’s decision, Raborn said WSFD is “extremely disappointed in the decision made by the board of commissioners. We have made it a point to positively impact our tax base with over $1.2 million in savings for homeowners’ insurance premiums by reducing the ISO rating. “

He said WSFD “will be playing catch up to meet the demand that is being placed upon us. The commissioners have encouraged and advocated for the growth that is happening, but are not doing anything to support the services or infrastructure that has to field that burden.

“We aren’t the only ones that are under-funded though,” he added. “All of public safety and the school system are having to figure out how to just band-aid services together. If they are not willing to stand up for those that stand up for the citizens, who are they willing to stand up for?”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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