|Is there a way to more intelligently budget for the fire service in Escambia County? Answer--yes...|
The budgeting for fire service in Escambia County is being discussed this week.
I met with the Fire Chief and Director of the Emergency Services yesterday afternoon.
Currently, we fund fire services with an MSBU that every dwelling in the county pays, it is $125 per unit in the unincorporated areas of the county. And this generates the money necessary to pay the 300+ county firefighters (160 are volunteers) and pay expenses associated with the department's operations.
But this amount of money generated is not keeping up with costs. So here is where the rubber meets the road in answering the following question:
How do we adequately fund this service while not simply raising tax rates on property owners?
I believe the answer requires a few initial steps and some creativity--but I believe we can do it. Here's how:
1-----Have the fire service (and EMS) only utilize Local Option Sales Taxes going forward for equipment purchases (equipment that qualifies under the LOST referendum) to free up
general revenue dollars to help with rising labor and other costs.
------Develop a sharing formula for EMS-ECFR where the EMS’s yearly surplus dollars are shared with ECFR based upon a formula that bolsters ECFR. (25%, 50% or ?)
------Change the county-wide MSBU to an MSTU of .9969 mills (which will generate the same level of revenue this year that the MSBU would have generated) and with this change the amount generated will increase modestly with the increasing value of the tax roll going forward—without necessitating tax rate increases year over year.
As we get closer and closer to starting the budget for next year, I have a feeling we will be discussing the fire service budget and steps we can take to shore this budget up going forward. I look forward to these conversations!