A measure to fund local fire departments with a new tax has passed.
The county proposition passed with 57 percent of the vote. The proposition creates a new one-eighth of one percent sales tax that will go to 16 city and volunteer fire departments. The tax will go into effect Jan. 1, 2019 and will expire Dec. 31, 2024.
Lone Grove Fire Chief Stacey Phelps said the tax is particularly important to volunteer fire departments.
“The previous tax (which expired in 2011) was set up by the fire department, but we couldn’t use the money on things like medical equipment or medical training,” Phelps said. “This new tax, we can use it on whatever we need.”
Phelps said the last tax was focused largely on replacing firefighting gear. The new tax will be broader.
“The new tax is going to be more operational, it will go toward maintaining the equipment they have,” Phelps said.
Phelps said operating costs for things like vehicle insurance, maintenance, new parts, tires and other day-to-day considerations add up quickly.
“Everything has gotten so expensive to maintain and keep running,” Phelps said. “For a volunteer department, there’s no way they could keep those things running.”
He said fundraisers, while helpful, are not a realistic long-term solution, especially with the cost of medical training and equipment factored in.
“This is a crucial deal for us,” Phelps said.