Southwood among three Lenoir County volunteer fire departments seeking fire tax increase

Southwood among three volunteer fire departments seeking fire tax increase
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 11:41 PM EDT
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LENOIR COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) -Wyse Fork, Sandy Bottom and Southwood Volunteer Fire Departments are all districts in Lenoir County suffering because of little tax revenue.

“What they’re getting is just enough to keep their doors open and equipment where it needs to be,” said Jake Turner, Lenoir County Fire Marshal.

Each of the departments recently called for county commissioners to increase the fire taxe and Southwood Fire Chief Craig Jarmon says their district may be feeling the most impact.

He says inflation and the pandemic have caused the yearly price of fire trucks to increase more than usual, but says it’s been hard to keep up because they aren’t generating any tax revenue.

“We’re in an unfortunate situation where our tax revenue, we don’t see the increases that help equal out the price of equipment,” Jarmon said.

Jarmon says Southwood has only seen a 9% total increase over the last six fiscal years under their current fire tax, which is why they want a tax increase. Turner says it’ll benefit the entire county.

“If we tried to have a county fire department itself with a paying staff, it would be millions of dollars,” Turner said.

Southwood attempted to hold a meeting Wednesday night to hear public comments about why they want a tax increase, but no one showed up.

Jarmon says Southwood’s current fire tax rate is .085 percent, which they’re asking to be raised to 0.1 percent because he says homeowner’s taxes wouldn’t be drastically different.

“If your home is valued at $200,000, that’s only $30.00 more a year,” Jarmon said.

Jarmon says county commissioners’ decision on the fire tax increase should come before June 1st, which starts the new fiscal year.

The last stop for the series of meetings will be held Thursday night at Sandy Bottom Volunteer Fire Department at 7 p.m. to give its residents a chance to speak on the fire tax request.