Voters to decide fire district, street improvement issues

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Residents who live within the boundaries served by the Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department will have the opportunity to vote on the formation of a tax-based fire protection district on April 8.

"The tax district is essential in maintaining a strong locally governed fire department," said James Vincent, fire department board president.

The tax-based fire protection district will be funded by a 30-cent property tax, which means residents of the Mineral Springs, Jenkins, Cato, southern Wheelerville and surrounding area will be charged 30 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

If the proposed fire protection district issue passes, the tax support will spread district operating costs, which are around $31,000 per year, among all residents served by the Jenkins Fire Department.

The tax district will also eliminate the current membership system, which requires residents to pay $35 per year for fire protection services.

Around 400 residents maintain membership with the fire department. Through those membership dues, the department collects around $14,000 per year.

The remaining $17,000 required to operate the fire department is raised through several annual events, such as the fire department's fish fry and chili supper. The department also receives several community grants from Wal-Mart each year, said Vincent.

If the proposed fire district issue passes, the department will collect around $35,000 in taxes each year. The funds will cover operating expenses and help the department train firefighters and maintain equipment, said Vincent.

"More than anything the money will cover overall expenses," said Vincent. "Costs are up so much and our training requirements continue to go up. There is a lot of training that firefighters are required to have and that training costs money."

The department maintains four tankers, four brush trucks and two fire engines. Fuel and insurance costs on the department's vehicles, which increase annually, will also be covered by the fire district tax if it is approved, said Vincent.

"There is always equipment that we need," said Vincent. "We need more protective gear for our guys. Firefighter protection is a number one concern."

The department is served by around 37 volunteer firefighters who work out of two fire stations, which are located near the junctions of Highways 248 and 39 and Farm Road 1157 and Highway 248.

To promote the Jenkins Fire Protection District issue, the department has hosted two town hall meetings. Barry County Assessor June Smith attended one meeting to give residents information on estimated annual tax costs.

To calculate the tax issues' approximate annual cost, residents can multiply the value of their home by 19 percent to receive the assessment value. That amount should then be multiplied by .30 to calculate the amount of tax the homeowner will pay to support the tax district.

For instance, a $100,000 home has an assessed value of $19,000. That homeowner will pay $57 per year to support the proposed fire district. A resident with a $50,000 home will pay around $28.50 per year.

According to Smith, individuals who own land in the Jenkins area can expect to pay between $2.70 and $5.40 per 100 acres of land if the tax district issue is approved.

Smith also presented information on tax amounts that Jenkins residents could pay on their personal property, which can be calculated by multiplying the assessed value of the property by .30. A resident who owns a newer four-wheel drive truck can expect to pay around $19 per year to support the tax district.

The proposed Jenkins Fire Protection District will be governed by a five-member board of trustees. Stephen Araujo, Leon Barnes, Rod Riley, Steve Blankenship, Jack Lowe and Vincent have announced their candidacies for the first five seats on the board.

For more information on the proposed fire protection district issue, call Vincent at 417-723-8385.

Butterfield issue

Voters living within the Butterfield city limits will be voting on a $200,000 general obligation bond issue, which could provide funding for street maintenance and repairs.

"This is not a revenue bond," said Georgia Wenell, city clerk. "It is a general bond issue that will be financed through gas and vehicle taxes that we already receive from the state."

The increased revenues from the bond issue will be used to repair and extend city streets, said Wenell. The Butterfield City Council hopes to develop an improvement plan for street maintenance projects.

"When the sewer was installed in 2003, the bond and grant funds were supposed to be sufficient to cover the repair of the roads," said Wenell. "When additional expenses came up, the funds for the road repairs were used. The streets were never repaired from the installation."

Additional damage has been done to city streets by heavy rain and extreme temperatures, said Wenell.

The Butterfield City Council has been researching state grant programs that could provide matching funds for the street improvement plan.

If the proposed bond issue passes, the aldermen plan to only issue fund amounts that can be repaid by the city's state fuel tax revenue, which is around $14,000 each year.

"We are not increasing taxes, and we are not increasing utility rates to finance the bond issue," said Wenell.

For more information on Butterfield's general obligation bond issue, call the Butterfield City Hall at 417-442-7975.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: