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County fire chief explains need for tax increase

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Editor’s note: The following is printed here at the request of Pat Krogman, chief of the Anderson County Fire District.

Please allow me a few minutes of your time to hopefully clear up some misunderstandings and misconceptions and to answer some important questions that have been asked about the Anderson County Fire Protection District’s decision to propose a 0.028 cent tax increase. Yes, the board has proposed a fairly significant increase in your fire tax as compared to our recent history but not without much thought, discussion and prayer. I believe there are primarily three things you must know to make an educated decision as to your position on this increase.
What is your real cost and how do I figure this out?
If you are an Anderson County property owner outside of the city limits of Lawrenceburg, your real cost would be 10cents per $100 of assessed value of your home and/or property. This is equal to $100 per $100,000 of assessed value. So a home valued at $118,000 would cost you $118 per year for your fire tax.  Lawrenceburg city residences do not pay county fire taxes.

Why do this increase
and why do it now?

The ACFPD staff and the board of trustees have had ongoing conversations about our tax rates and budgetary issues since I started as fire chief with the district April 1, 2015. There were members at that time that felt that we needed to go to the maximum allowable by KRS 75. Some members were opposed to the increase and all ultimately decided in the last two years to stay with a 4 percent [revenue] increase. The 4 percent increase this year would have been a net increase of about $18,000. The proposed increase is in fact the maximum allowable increase the district is allowed to take by law. This 10-cent rate is also the rate that most fire districts across the Commonwealth have been at for many, many years. The board has at this time unanimously voted to propose this tax increase due to several factors, including rapidly increasing operational cost such as building and vehicle maintenance, utilities, vehicle replacement, personnel protective equipment, increased number of volunteers (yes, that is a good thing but it does cost additional funds  for equipment), fuel cost and much, much more.

What services do I receive
for my tax money?

Currently the ACFPD provides the citizens and visitors of Anderson County with not only firefighting services. We also provide vehicle extrication, swift water rescue, structure collapse rescue, trench rescue, high and low angle rope rescue, hazardous materials incident management, large animal rescue, EMS assistance, law enforcement assistance, coroner’s office assistance, public education for all of the county’s elementary, preschools, day cares and the Anderson County High School. We provide a firefighter cadet program for 15- to 18-year-olds with an interest in the fire service and training and educational activities for these students.
We have recently started working part time firefighters to fill two 40-hour positions per week. Currently there are 13 members of our department working a few shifts per month to cover these hours. Many have questioned the need for additional funds for paid personnel. This program was started with only $10,000 of new funds and $40,000 that we have cut from other budget areas. The part-time staff has already proven itself worthy by arriving on scenes well ahead of the volunteer staff responding from their homes or other locations. In the fire and EMS services, minutes saves lives. They have also already saved the district thousands in labor cost in building and vehicle repairs. In the future we would like to add services such as life safety inspections, business fire inspections, educational programs such as CPR and first aid, babysitter training, home inspections and car seat inspections.
But with all of that I must say the greatest value you receive from the ACFPD does not cost tax dollars at all.  It is the dedication and service of your 60-plus volunteer firefighter neighbors, friends and relatives that donate endless hours to their community for very little back except the knowledge that they can, will and have helped someone in need. Without this dedication and commitment, the ACFPD or the county would need to pay well over $2 million per year for a full-time paid staff.
The ACFPD has and wants no control over road projects, missing street signs, classroom sizes, school parking issues, library books or other such projects as recently indicated on Facebook and other social media sites. We have no authority over any other agency or entity, and no other agency or entity has authority over the ACFPD. The county judge-executive appoints three members to our board with the approval of the fiscal court, but holds no other authority over our board. We feel we have a great working relationship with the fiscal court, judge-executive and the four other emergency services in our county and work hard to keep it that way.
The ACFPD is a special taxing district formed to provide emergency services under KRS 75. We are managed by a seven member board of trustees and an appointed fire chief. Our board is made up of three county judge appointees, two elected property owners and two firefighter representatives elected by the active firefighters.
Six of our seven board members are county residents outside of the Lawrenceburg city limits and are therefore subject to the same tax rates. We are tasked with providing the citizens and visitors with fire and rescue services. Those services are continually increasing in cost. We are trying to stay up with the level of service that you are accustomed to receiving from ACFPD, and are trying to provide better coverage and additional stations so that areas of the county that currently have an Insurance Service Rating (ISO) of 10 due to being greater than five miles from a fire station can be lowered to a five like the rest of the county, and be able to see a significant reduction in home insurance cost. Increasing services, updating equipment, and adding paid staff will lower our ISO rating and help us attract new residents and business to Anderson County. New business income is the only way we can truly improve all county services.
I, along with the ACFPD board members, understand and appreciate the fact that this is not the only tax you pay or the only one proposing an increase. Most of us will also pay the same taxes and increases.
No matter what I say here or at the tax rate hearing at Station 1, 1009 Wildcat Road. Lawrenceburg, on Thursday, Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m., it will not magically put money in your pockets or make you feel better about ACFPD increasing your tax burden, but I will tell you that the staff, board of trustees and firefighters of the ACFPD will always try to do the right thing for Anderson County. We unanimously feel this is the right thing at the right time for your overall best interest in fire protection services.
­—Patrick R. Krogman, Fire Chief