Chatham Emergency Services rolls out new billing software that could change subscription costs

Chatham Fire Services
Chatham Fire Services(WTOC (custom credit))
Updated: Nov. 26, 2019 at 5:11 AM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Starting Monday, Chatham Emergency Services is sending out updated bills that they say more accurately reflect the value of your property.

With new billing software, CES will have an accurate appraised value for your home and property, which is what the bill is based on.

That said, the updated billing method doesn’t necessarily indicate that your fire protection bill will go up or down.

With access to county property records, one thing will change for certain, and that’s the number of bills going out.

The number of fire protection subscribers will jump from 27,000 to about 32,000, and the CEO of Chatham Emergency Services explained why.

“We haven’t been billing for unimproved land in the past. We’re going to start doing that now because as we looked at our run data, we found that 41-percent of the fires we fight are open-area brush fires, shrubs on fire," said Chuck Kearns.

And unlike a city-funded firefighting service subsidized by tax dollars, Chatham Fire is a subscriber-owned, not-for-profit fire service.

Kearns said, “This is our only source of income for fire protection. We don’t receive any tax dollars. There’s no fire amount embedded in or listed on your tax bill in the unincorporated area. This is the sole income for fire protection in the unincorporated area.”

The first bills with the changes go out on Monday and will continue to on subscribers’ normal cycles.

“For November it looked like overall, 11-percent increase for all subscribers combined. But I will tell you that in some of the testing that we did, we saw a lot of people’s rates going down," said Kearns.

Kearns said all the subscription dues collected go right back into enhancing fire protection service, and that could include anything from updating equipment and trucks and improving hydrant access in more rural areas of the county.

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