- Special Sections
- Public Notices
HOLDEN BEACH—Tri Beach Fire Chief Doug Todd voiced his concerns to Holden Beach commissioners at their March 12 meeting over a county plan to end fire fees.
Brunswick County is one of only two North Carolina counties to collect fire fees to fund local fire departments.
Fire fees are based on square footage of structures in the area. Revenue is generated for each fire department from fees collected within a six-mile radius of each department.
Some departments receive sufficient funds from fire fees for their budget, such as Tri Beach, which receives $969,644.
“The fees are equitable. If you have a 3,000-square-foot house here or if you have a 3,000-square-foot house on (the mainland), you pay the same amount,” Todd said.
But county staff said the fire-fee system is deficient in providing adequate funding for every fire department, whose districts vary in size and density.
At the county’s February budget workshop, county staff recommended abandoning fire fees and using ad valorem (property) taxes to better fund fire departments.
Todd said he isn’t in favor of a system that could collect money from Holden Beach, which is in the Tri Beach six-mile radius, but not put all the money into serving the area.
“I don’t like that if they collect more money here—it won’t go to us, or we take a percentage and part of it goes to the general fund,” Todd said.
He added the county could also put more demands on what departments do with the money.
If the county opts for a fire tax, fire chiefs would present budget requests to the county staff the same way department heads do.
Adding fire tax to property taxes countywide was one option presented, but others included creating special property tax districts.
“If we are going to change, keep the money allocated to our fire district,” Todd said.
Mayor Alan Holden told board members he thinks the town should send a letter to the county opposing the property-tax plan.
He added he would begin voicing the town’s position at a meeting of the counties’ mayors, which took place March 13.
“We should oppose the action, (speak out) against it, see where others stand and send a letter to the county manager telling him we are concerned and will not support a fire tax,” Holden said.
Todd said county fire chiefs will meet March 21 at the Southport Fire Department to determine where they stand collectively.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.