Two of Central’s fire stations are staffed with only one firefighter at a time, which Fire Chief Bill Porche hopes to change with a property tax on the Dec. 6 ballot.
The Central Fire Department is asking for a 4.25-mill tax that would bring in around $560,000, which officials said would be used to hire nine more firefighters and district chiefs. If the tax passes, the Fire Department would have two firefighters per station, still below the national standard that calls for four manning a truck.
“It’s very limited what a single firefighter can do at an emergency scene,” Porche said.
The Fire Department estimated that the new tax will cost typical homeowners, with a homestead exemption, less than $5 a month for property valued at around $200,000. They expect the tax to cost less than $3 a month for those with property worth $150,000 and less than $1 a month for property at $100,000. The tax would last 10 years, and the money would go toward salaries and benefits for the new hires.
The Central Fire Department, which is a separate entity from the city, already has another 10-mill property tax that provides more than a third of its revenue.
Voters overwhelmingly elected to renew the tax last year, which ranges from paying salaries for the 23 employees to fire hydrant rental fees. When that tax was renewed, the Fire Department expected it to bring in $1.3 million in 2015.
The Central Fire Department operates five stations across 67 square miles. The other three stations currently are staffed with two firefighters per shift.
If the tax passes, Porche said the money will not start trickling in until January 2016. He said he would use the gap year to advertise the available positions and make sure the department had the best applicants to hire.
David Barrow, chief administrative officer for Central, said history shows that Central residents often vote in favor of millages to support the fire departments. The new tax has not generated controversy, he said.
The Fire Department is hosting several informational meetings about the tax over the next two weeks. They will start at 6 p.m. and be hosted at various firehouses throughout the district.
Early voting for the election begins on Saturday.