Best way to spend 1.4-cents

Budget Committee looks at fire trucks, capital outlay projects in county

What’s 1.4-cents on the Anderson County tax rate?

What’s the purchasing power?

Currently that 1.4-cents equals one half a fire truck per year — a plan implemented by Anderson County Commission that allows each of the county’s 11 fire departments to receive a new fire truck every two years on a rotating basis: Every other year one of the county’s fire departments receives a new truck.

Medford Volunteer Fire Department is scheduled to receive a new truck this fall.

Two years from now the next department on the rotation will receive a new truck.

But there are some set backs with this plan the Anderson County Budget Committee was told last Thursday.

The first being the average age of fire fighter apparatus in the county is 17 years. State requirements say a truck must be taken off the front line after 15 years.

Aged trucks decrease a fire department’s effectiveness, which results in that department’s coverage area receiving a lower ISO rating (insurance), which results in higher insurance premiums for homeowners.

Another problem, the committee was told, is that the cost of fire fighter apparatus rises.

The county is funding about $280,000 for a new truck every two years, while the cost of “a very basic truck,” is about $302,000 — and that cost will probably increase by five to 10-percent by the next time the county another purchase.

Last Thursday night the Anderson County Budget Committee was given a plan from a task force to look at equipping the county’s fire departments set up by Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank.

The plan had two options, though the committee looked at an additional two — giving the county four plans to pick from.

One plan called for the county to do nothing, another looked at adding a penny to the tax rate and fully funding a new truck every year.

Another option called for a capital outlay loan — to be repaid over a 12-year period — to purchase 11 trucks at once — adding a penny to the 1.4-cents currently set aside.

And another plan calls for a 20-year bond to purchase one new truck for each fire department — 11 at once.

Anderson County Finance Director Natalie Erb said that would be about 1.4-cents on the tax rate.

Mayor Frank pointed out to the committee that 1.4-cents of the tax rate is already set aside to fund new trucks.

Committee members seemed open to the idea of a bond issuance, chairman Jerry White saying, “We’re not going to raise taxes.”

The committee took no action, neither endorsing or rejecting the idea of issuing a bond, but they did give a window of hope for the fire departments — as well as other departments looking at capital projects, mainly the Anderson County School System and the Sheriff’s Office.

White said that if — and that’s a big if — the county were to undertake a bond issue for fire trucks, then the county should look at what capital projects the other departments need, and then lump them together.

White noted it is not an overnight project.

“It won’t happen this month. And not the next,” White said. “As we go through this, we have to find what our priorities are.”