District looks at fund for fire: Tax levy would pay for upgrades on equipment

With hopes of making equipment improvements, the Pershing Township Fire Protection District is establishing a cumulative fire building and equipment fund.

With hopes of making equipment improvements, the Pershing Township Fire Protection District is establishing a cumulative fire building and equipment fund.

Taxpayers in that area of Jackson County currently pay 15 cents per $100 of assessed valuation per year to help fund fire department operations.

The department’s annual budget is around $93,600. The property tax draw is $58,243.53, while the remainder comes from miscellaneous revenues.

The new property tax levy would not exceed 3.3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. If approved, the proposed fund will be levied beginning with taxes due and payable in 2018.

At this time, a homeowner in Pershing Township with a home with an assessed valuation of $100,000 would pay about $150 for fire protection, which would increase to about $180 per year if the new fund is established. Pershing Township’s overall property tax rate is $1.64 per $100,000 assessed valuation.

A public hearing is set for 6 p.m. July 5 in the Jackson County Courthouse Annex, 220 E. Walnut St., Brownstown.

After that hearing, the Jackson County Commissioners will consider an ordinance to establish the fund. If it passes, the proposal will be submitted to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance for approval.

Within 30 days after the date of the adoption, the fire district will publish a notice of adoption.

Upon publication, 10 or more taxpayers in the taxing district may file a petition with Jackson County Auditor Kathy Hohenstreiter no later than noon 30 days after the publication of the notice of adoption setting forth their objections to the proposed fund.

Pershing is the only fire protection district in Jackson County without a cumulative fire fund. The district has been in place since 1993.

Ben Rudolph, chief of the Pershing Township Volunteer Fire Department, said the goal is to have enough money coming in to adequately staff and operate the department, which consists of about 15 members.

Without the fund, he said it would be difficult to come up with the money for capital outlay purchases, including fleet, gear, self-contained breathing apparatus and radios.

“Equipment costs have gone up substantially over the past several years, but our budget hasn’t,” he said.

The department has its largest fundraiser coming up, conducting an auction and a 5K run/walk and selling food during the Freetown July Festival on July 7 and 8. Rudolph said last year’s profit was one of the best in recent years.

Still, that puts a small dent in the cost of expensive equipment and other needs for the department.

“It would help us out a lot to have one,” Rudolph said of the cumulative fire fund.

Hohenstreiter has advertised the public hearing twice, so the fire protection district will have to cover that expense. She said she started that process because there is an Aug. 1 deadline to get the fund started in 2018.

Establishing the cumulative fire fund may decrease the operating fund, but the five-member fire protection district board voted to move forward with it.

Hohenstreiter suggested to Rudolph and the board to have someone do a financial analysis for them, which is what the other districts in the county have done.

“You need to make sure that everything is going to be the way you want it,” she said.

If you go

What: Public hearing on a proposed cumulative fire building and equipment fund for the Pershing Township Fire Protection District

When: 6 p.m. July 5

Where: Jackson County Courthouse Annex, 220 E. Walnut St., Brownstown

Who: Open to the public and press

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.