Trade tax for fee?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 16, 2010

MONTEREY — Voters in the Concordia Parish Fire District No. 1 will have the opportunity to decide to replace a tax with a fee this fall.

“We are going to try to get a partial fee for the fire district passed,” Concordia Fire District No. 1 Chief Jim Graves said. “We have a three-mil tax that expired this year and we are not going to ask for it back.”

Graves said the property tax was unfair because it only landowners had to pay it, and the proposed $75 per tract of land fee would level the playing field.

“This way, people with camps and lots will have to contribute also,” he said.

“We are getting more people moving in there and we are staying busier.”

Should the fee be approved by voters, residents of the area covered by the fire district will receive notices about the fee collection, and Graves said the state allows for the fire department, the tax collector or a contract firm to collect the fees.

Several other fire districts in the state already have a similar system in place, Graves said.

The funds generated by the fee will be used to improve firefighting infrastructure by adding fire hydrants and filling plugs and increasing water supplies, he said.

It will also be used to buy rescue equipment.

“We have a lot of farming accidents down there, and the closest set of Jaws of Life is 30 minutes away,” Graves said.

The fire chief said the fire district is also considering building a lighted walking track for the public behind its Monterey station.

If passed, the new fee structure could save homeowners money on their insurance by lowering the area’s fire rating when the infrastructure improvements are made, Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington said.

Concordia Fire District No. 1 is a volunteer fire district. The district has stations in Monterey, Lismore, Eva, New Era and Acme.