The Jackson County Commissioners recently approved the establishment of a Vernon Township Fire District. The action follows the approval of the Town of Crothersville and Vernon Township Board at a combined May meeting of the two boards.
The establishment of another taxing unit for Vernon Township gained traction over the years as the fire department’s main funding source—the Vernon Township Trustee— was unable to increase their funding to keep up with ongoing expenses.
Property tax caps, voted into the Indiana Constitution during the Mitch Daniels administration is partially blamed with decreasing the available funds for firefighting.
The local answer is to do what other township fire departments did about six years ago: establish a new taxing entity and raise local taxes specifically for fire protection.
The current funding dilemma is nothing new locally. In 2003, unable to keep up with their share of fire department expenses through the town general fund, the town of Crothersville turned over fire protection funding to the township. At that point property owners in town began paying a fire operating and cumulative fire equipment rate on their property taxes.
But over the years, the legislature has cut taxes leaving cities, towns, schools, and townships lacking for money to adequately fund needed government services.
Five Vernon Township residents were named to the fire district board by the county commissioners. They are: Brad Barron, Odes Densford, Terry Gray, Lynn Howard and Steve Murphy.
Howard and Murphy are both retired fire chiefs with the local department.
According to Kay Schwade, the board will meet to develop a budget in 2016 which taxpayers will begin paying 2017.
Currently the township provides the maximum amount allowed by the state which represents a tax rate of 4¢ per $100 of assessed valuation. For property assessed at $100,000, a property owner would pay $40 annually.
Should the board choose to increase the fire tax rate to 8¢ or 10¢ those annual tax payments for fire protection would increase to $80 or $100 respectively.