Several Grayson County fire departments provided the Fiscal Court with the necessary paperwork to begin placing their optional fire dues on residents’ county tax bills beginning next year.
The court passed a measure last November to allow the practice, which is already being utilized in a number of surrounding counties. The recent paperwork submission was the last requirement needed to get the process going.
The Caneyville Volunteer Fire Department was the only one out fo seven local departments which chose not to participate.
Starting next year, a $40 membership fee will be placed on tax bills for properties in unincorporated portions of Grayson County (outside of Caneyville, Clarkson, and Leitchfield city limits) served by the six participating departments.
Residents have the option of opting out of this suggested membership fee; however doing so could result in being charged for any fire department runs to the property in question. Regular fire run costs are $500 for a residence and $1,000 for a business.
Local departments will not only save money and time which would have been spent contacting residents for membership dues, but they hope to also dramatically increase the number of members and therefore decrease the number of billed fire and emergency runs with the enactment of this new policy.
County Attorney Clay Ratley explained to the court that in addition to property owners having the option to choose not to pay the membership dues, groups such as government, religious or non-profit organizations will not be asked to pay. Similarly, any individual who is not normally charged a property tax – such as those who receive homestead or disability exemptions – will also be allowed to skip the fee.
The fire departments will use the increase in funding to purchase equipment and provide firefighter training. Anneta Fire Chief Cody Weiss explained that no portion of the funding may go toward firefighters’ salaries.
Weiss explained that volunteer firefighters across the county are currently having to use gear that no longer meets safety recommendations due to a severe lack of funding.
“Gear should be replaced every 10 years, but most firefighters in Grayson County are wearing gear that is older,” he told the fiscal court.
Weiss also said that new equipment and expanded training programs will likely help local departments increase their safety ratings, which will in turn reduce area property insurance costs.