Shell Knob voters to decide tax increase

Thursday, April 28, 2011

On June 7, Shell Knob voters will have the opportunity to decide a 10-cent tax levy increase for the Centeral Crossing Fire Protection District (CCFPD). The increase in revenue will be used to purchase equipment and fund emergency personnel training.

"We have an extensive list of equipment, facility and overall improvements we would like to implement, but without an increase in revenue, CCFPD will be forced to discontinue pursuing the major improvements to the department," said Sandra Wilson, CCFPD director.

Although voters approved a 30-cent levy in 1992, the Hancock Amendment forced the fire district to roll its levy back to $0.2725 from 1993 to 2010, said Wilson. The current rate is $0.2735.

"In the past two years, we have borrowed a total of $95,000 from the bank to cover expenses at the end of the year," said Wilson. "The cost to train and equip a firefighter or first responder is $4,000 each."

According to Wilson, CCFPD also uses a large portion of its budget to maintain and repair older emergency vehicles and equipment. The average age of the district's vehicles is from 12 to 36 years and the average age of personal protective equipment and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBAs) is 10 years.

"The engines and tankers used to fight structure and building fires average 28 years," said Wilson. "One-third of the personal protective equipment is 10 years old and the remaining is well over 10 years.

"Safety of the volunteers is of the utmost importance to the district," said Wilson. "Old safety gear and vehicles can pose a safety hazard to our volunteers. Our desire is to provide the best and most modern equipment to protect our most precious assets."

The CCFPD Board plans to provide $10,000 per year for medical first responder equipment and training. The board also allocates $30,000 per year for the lease purchase payment on the CCFPD headquarters building.

"This building is a great asset to the community but at a cost to the district," said Wilson. "It will be eight years before the building is clear."

CCFPD is currently working toward a Class 6 ISO (Insurance Service Organization) rating.

"When an ISO rating is lowered, a fire department is determined to be better staffed and better equiped to provide quicker and improved service," said Wilson. "The lower ISO rating could potentially save residents more on homeowners' insurance than their taxes will increase."

Over the last three years, the district has spent nearly $350,000 to achieve the current Class 7 ISO rating and to work toward the Class 6 rating. This required the construction and equiping of two new stations and the addition of new vehicles, equipment and personal gear.

If the 10-cent tax levy increase is approved, CCFPD will receive approximately $82,000 in additional revenue each year.

The CCFPD Board voted to place the issue on the June 7 ballot at its January meeting. No community meetings have been planned to discuss the issue.

Residents and organizations interested in learning more about the proposed tax increase should call Rusty Rickard, CCFPD chief, at 417-858-3560.

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