Oakboro Fire chief asks county for fire tax increase
Published 9:10 am Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Oakboro’s volunteer fire department has asked the county for an increase in the fire tax.
At Monday’s meeting of the Stanly County Board of Commissioners, Oakboro Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Rodney Eury spoke during public comments.
Eury referenced a letter Oakboro VFD sent to the county’s emergency manager requesting a four cent increase on the fire tax. The chief mentioned Oakboro “has the largest fire district served by one fire station” in the county other than Albemarle and West Stanly.
He called Oakboro VFD “the second busiest volunteer fire department,” saying call volume has increased 30% in the last five years and 75% in the last 10 years. According to Eury, Oakboro had 622 calls in 2022.
Noting Oakboro has zero debt, Eury said the increase is needed for new apparatus, including a second tanker truck and a new building for the new equipment.
Eury said the department also wants full-time staffing, which for four personnel to provide 24-hour coverage seven days a week at $15/hour would amount to $524,000 per year.
He noted Oakboro VFD has a fund balance of $1,082,236 and the tanker would cost between $350,000 and $400,000. The second tanker is necessary, he added, because water pressure to some of the hydrants is low.
Eury also mentioned having less volunteers, saying the younger generation “doesn’t seem to care about it.” The department has two people who work Monday through Friday, one from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the other from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
When asked about a new location, Eury said it could play a factor regarding whether the annual Fourth of July Celebration continues. Noting the event has happened for 65 years, he said Oakboro VFD “would like to see that tradition continue. It does help funding for us as well. We don’t want to see that go away.”
The department owns a gravel lot between West Third and Fourth streets, Eury said, where a new facility might go. The field across the street, he said, would stay open for the Fourth of July event, “as long as we have personnel willing to help do it.”
Commissioner Patty Crump asked when was the last time Oakboro received an increase. County Manager Andy Lucas said he had not asked for such in his 15 years as manager.
“We’re the lowest in the county. That doesn’t give a reason to go up. We are six and that is the lowest in the county,” Eury said.
Vice Chairman Mike Barbee said if commissioners asked for a four-cent increase in property tax, “they would hang us all and run us off…when the fire tax goes up in a district, that’s the same thing as a property tax.”
Eury said he and others in the department “all live in the district as well, so it ain’t that we’re exempt from it.”