Fire Department sales tax to be introduced

The proposal for a new sales tax to fund the Fire Department has reached the council level with the intention of going on the August ballot.

The ordinance is part of the Fire Department improvement plan, which was first presented last month. It proposes a switch from property taxes to a one-fourth-cent sales tax as a dedicated funding mechanism for the department. According to the plan, the switch would mean a 17 percent reduction to property taxes as it eliminates the 9.61-cent contribution to the Fireman’s Pension Fund.

If the tax is passed, the department would no longer receive funding from the five-year capital improvement sales tax, starting with the next installment of the city’s half-cent sales tax for capital improvements, which would allow more public safety funds from the tax to go to law enforcement. Currently, 19 percent of the half-cent sales tax approved by voters last August are slated to go toward public safety, split between the Police Department and Fire Department.

According to the proposed plan, the tax could fund fire suppression and emergency equipment, firefighting and EMS training, communications and technology equipment, an apparatus lease and replacement program, firefighters’ LAGERS retirement contribution and improvements at fire stations.

The tax is estimated to raise more than $2.6 million per year and would have no sunset provision. According to data gathered at city-data.com and the Internal Revenue Service website, Brandt said the proposal would bring an average annual saving of $24.98 in property taxes, while adding an average of $29 annually to each household in sales taxes.

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