Decision expected Monday on allocations to fire departments

Published 11:16 am Thursday, September 29, 2022

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

Davie County commissioners decided during its budget process that an additional $492,557 would be available for fire and rescue funding this fiscal year.

Commissioner Benita Finney thinks that the Davie County Rescue Squad should get $300,000, and that nine fire departments – excluding Mocksville, Smith Grove and Advance, called “The Big 3” – receive $44,963 each.

Commissioner Terry Renegar thinks the rescue squad and all fire departments should get an equal amount – $37,889.

The board is expected to make a decision at their meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday.

Other options presented were: increase the three largest departments by $55,000 collectively, and allocate $32,755 each to the other nine “base” departments; or $37,889 to the nine base departments, $300,000 to the rescue squad, and $21,222 to each of the three largest departments.

The discussion came after two fire chiefs spoke to the board, saying they need more money to operate at the minimem level, one saying Mocksville’s annexations to the north are hurting that department’s revenue, because allocations are based partly on the tax base in the district.

William R. Davie Chief Jason Keeton said that when Mocksville annexed the SouthPoint Business Park, his department received a one-time $3,600 payment. The park, he said, brings in more than $32,000 a year in taxes. Now there’s talk about more development and annexations in the US 601 N., Ijames Church and Cana roads area.

“I’m probably the most unliked person in this room right now, but I feel like it’s my job to do the best I can for the people I serve.”

William R. Davie gets some $212,000 in money from the county’s fire tax, Mocksville Fire Department gets $541,000, plus about $250,000 from the town.

“How can I provide the same service as Mocksville Fire Department? I can’t, and the people I protect deserve more than that. The citizens of this county don’t get lesser in law enforcement, EMS services or school service.”

He suggested the county look at ways to stop such annexations. “To me, Davie County is more important than Mocksville.”

“Our needs need to be met as well,” said Naylor, adding that the nine departments haven’t seen an increase in 15 years until the last allocation.

Both advocated for an additional quarter cent sales tax exclusively for fire service.

Finney said that Advance has its own fire tax district to raise funds, which it hasn’t used, and that Mocksville is more of a municipal fire department. “We need to have a better agreement with them,” she said of Mocksville.

Smith Grove serves Bermuda Run, but that town doesn’t contribute to its funding, she said.

Renegar said a county-commissioned study two years ago set $250,000 as the minimum needed to operate a fire department. “That’s been the goal. We’ve got to take steps as we can afford them … it’s not where we need to be, but it’s making progress. I believe we need to get the smaller departments to $250,000.”

Commissioner Mark Jones made the motion to table the decision until Monday, saying he needed more time to go over the options. He also said the county needs to start a more serious discussion prior to next year’s budget, including removing the rescue squad from the funding from fire tax revenues.