LIVINGSTON — Merging two fire districts and asking voters to approve a fee or tax for their services may be the only way to avoid lower fire ratings and higher insurance premiums, town officials said Thursday night.
For decades, the town of Livingston’s fire department, which is known as the parish’s Fire District 6, also has served the residents of Fire District 12, which wraps around the town like a horseshoe, Mayor Derral Jones said.
Neither fire district has a service fee or property tax in place to fund its operations, Jones said. The town has been supporting the operations of both districts through its general fund but can no longer afford to update both districts’ equipment to maintain their fire ratings, he said.
“We’re a small town with a small budget,” Jones said. “We just can’t afford it.”
Jones said he wants to see the two fire districts, which the parish government created decades ago, merged into a single district that could then seek voter approval for a dedicated revenue stream.
Whether that revenue would come from a per-household service fee or a property tax is an open question. Jones said he needs to find out from the Parish Assessor’s Office what the taxable value within the two districts could yield, but he hopes to generate about $100,000 per year.
The town has sent letters to more than 1,400 people, trying to inform them of the plans for the merger, and held the second public information meeting on the topic Thursday night.
Jones said only about 25 people showed up for the first meeting.
The handful of attendees Thursday were all town or fire district officials.
Bob Hughes, a long-standing board member for Fire District 12, said a study done a few years ago showed his district does not have enough households or taxable property value to support itself.
Having fire protection services provided by District 6 improved District 12’s fire rating by two or three points, effectively lowering residents’ homeowners insurance rates, Hughes said.
If the two districts don’t merge and find a combined revenue source, those insurance rates may go back up, he said.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, or call her at (225) 336-6981.