OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) — In Daviess County, volunteer fire departments are celebrating 50 years of supporting residents. Pat Thompson has been serving for forty of those years and says there’s an increased need for up-to-date equipment and limited funding.
“We received a new apparatus in 2000 that cost $141,000. We bought a new one [that] cost $289,000. Now, they’re almost $400,000 6 years later. So, you know, the price of doing business in the fire service is exponentially gone up,” said the Chief of the Airport-Sorgho Fire Department.
Volunteer fire departments are currently funded by membership dues on property tax bills.
The Daviess County Fiscal Court’s new proposal is proposing would replace those dues with a 1.1% increase on an insurance premium license fee for residents.
“A volunteer fire chief should not have to worry about the financials. He should have to worry about his recruitment, and his retention, and his community and taking care of the station,” said Scott Smith, the chief of Moseleyville Fire Department.
Currently, funding can only increase for a station if new homes are built in their response area.
The Moseleyville Fire Department says that hasn’t happened in nearly 20 years. Smith, even with the help of state aid, he’s forced to budget above his means.
“I bring in around $36 to $37,000 tax base. If you put my $11,500 in there, [and] I set a budget for $60,000, that $48,000 to $60,000. That’s [a] $12,000 difference,” says Smith.
In the mean time, The Daviess County Fiscal Court helps fill the gap by helping with insurance and equipment replacement.