Albany-area firefighters are asking voters to renew a property tax, which provides the majority of their funding.
On Saturday, residents of Fire Protection District 1 will be asked whether to continue a 10-mill tax for the next decade.
Expected to raise $170,000 annually, the millage represents about 80 to 85 percent of the district’s revenue, said Chief Joe Foster. It pays for equipment, facility maintenance and fire hydrant rentals, according to ballot language.
It also pays six professional firefighters to operate the stations between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day, Foster continued. After hours, 25 volunteer firefighters provide service, the chief said.
The district, which encompasses approximately 50 square miles around Albany, has undergone several changes in recent years. In 2015, firefighters opened a second station on South Montpelier Road. Foster now has an eye on expanding the district’s fleet. He’d like to purchase a dual purpose pumper-rescue truck.
The addition would help first responders give aid on medical calls, to which the district began responding three years ago after receiving grant money to buy vehicle extrication equipment. Acadian Ambulance, a company with a parish contract, still provides transport to the hospital, but firefighters can give first aid and life support at the scene, Foster explained. The additional medical responsibilities has caused call volume to shoot up, from 630 in 2013 to 985 last year, he said.
District 1 currently has a fire protection rating of 4, which is among the best in Livingston Parish. Foster wants to try to move up in the next five years. Fire protection ratings affect insurance rates for property owners within a district. The chief said that if the ballot measure fails, residents’ insurance will be dramatically affected.
“If we lose this millage, people aren’t going to be able to get home insurance in the district,” he said.
Unlike other districts, the Albany-area firefighters don’t collect a user fee to generate revenue, relying heavily on the millage. Foster is apprehensive about the election, given the poor state of Louisiana’s finances as a whole.
“We are very concerned” about the millage passing, he said.