Much of the discussion during the regularly scheduled Grayson County Fire Chief’s meeting on Tuesday, April 4 was centered around proposed changes to the existing Fire Department Membership Fee Ordinance.
With representatives from six of the seven fire departments, as well Grayson County Sheriff Norman Chaffins present, the changes to the ordinance were discussed at length.
The main concern was the change which will appear on the 2017 tax bill, allowing tax payers to opt out of the fees by checking a single box.
Currently, tax payers must come to the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office to request to be exempt from the fee on a separate form. That form is not sent to tax payers with their tax bill.
During the meeting, the fire chiefs voiced concern about possibly losing revenue because it will be much easier to just “check the box,” and, as a result, more people will opt out.
That option was voted on and passed (pending the second reading) Monday morning, April 3 during the Grayson County Fiscal Court’s special called meeting.
The Chief’s meeting began with a statement from Chaffins explaining why it is much easier to keep up with one piece of paper than two separate forms.
“When the auditor came down this year, they pulled about nine tax bills, and at least six of those did not have the necessary paper work attached,” said Chaffins. “If we make this change, then it simplifies the process and makes the paperwork easier.”
In 2016, after the fire departments began receiving these funds, the Fiscal Court withdrew their financial support to the fire departments.
In previous years, the county had paid insurance to each of the departments, and, by pulling these funds, at least two departments said they would lose money.
The East Grayson County and Anneta fire departments both said they were receiving less money than before the members’ fees were collected because the county withdrew its financial support.
Other departments, such as Wax and Clarkson, spoke of replacing older model vehicles and turnout gear to better assist the public.
“We make about 100 runs a year,” said Wax Fire Chief David Strader. “All but about four or five of those runs are medical assist runs, and we cannot collect for them.”
Six of the seven departments are called to medical runs to assist with medical needs until an ambulance arrives. There is no way to collect money for these runs to help pay the cost of equipment and training for the fire departments that make these runs.
One suggestion was to make the fee a mandatory collection by Grayson County Sheriff’s Office and require tax payers to go to their respective fire departments to be reimbursed the $40.
The decision to place the opt out box on the form does not lie with the fire chiefs and will be decided by the Fiscal Court after the final reading of the ordinance on Thursday, April 13 at noon in the small courtroom in the courthouse on Leitchfield’s Public Square.
Reach Theresa Armstrong at 270-259-9622, ext. 2011.