Bryan County fire tax issues - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Bryan County fire tax issues


In Bryan County, residents are expected to pay a flat rate fire tax, which directs money into the budget for firefighter salaries and equipment. But with the growing population, and that tax only generating so much, fire administrators are having to get creative.

The flat fire tax generates about $1.1 million annually, and most of that goes to salaries to make sure they have an adequate staff.

Bryan County Director of Emergency Services and County Fire Chief Freddy Howell has tapped into outside resources to take care of some equipment needs, like tankers.

Howell said his firefighters have stepped up to get them duty ready.

"They're doing everything from putting the tank on the chassis, to painting it, putting lights on it, to make it operational so they can use it to haul water and to spray water on fires,” said Howell.

The Bryan County Fire Department bought each truck for just $100 apiece, and said they only spent about $5,000 getting them ready for service.

Getting non-surplus vehicles similar in size, and also in use, would have otherwise cost them upwards of $150,000.

"With a high rate of growth every department has concerns that they don't have enough money. So it's always a constant struggle trying to keep up with demand, and keep taxes and fees low,” said Bryan County Manager Ben Taylor.

Taylor said he doesn't anticipate the flat fire tax changing anytime soon.

It's $145 no matter the size of the house. And that flat fire tax concept has been in place since the mid-90s, even with more and more people moving into the county.

"With that growth, the growth in revenue will hopefully find future expansion of the fire department,” said Taylor.

Taylor said they are looking at allocating more funds for the fire department as budget time approaches.

In the meantime, the fire chief said in terms of staffing, that it's imperative for them to hold onto the seasoned volunteer staff to fill in the gaps for each of the ten houses across the county.

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