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Emmitsburg wants countywide fire tax

Stephanie Long
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(5/1) For the Emmitsburg Town Council, deciding to go with a scenario that would lower the fire tax rate for town residents by 1.8 cents the first year and 0.8 cents in the second year was a “no brainer.”

They supported it.

“The best thing for our residents is to lower rates for them,” said Mayor James Hoover. “We’re already receiving services and will continue to. It’s a no-brainer.”

The county has urban and suburban fire tax districts. Residents in urban districts pay 12.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Residents in suburban districts pay 8 cents and use mostly volunteer staff.

The Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services has asked the county commissioners to consider creating a single fire tax rate that would start at 11 cents per $100 of assessed value in July and increase to 12 cents in July 2009.

“The town would be benefited by that rate,” said Town Manager Dave Haller.
For Emmitsburg property owners, this would result in a decrease of $18 per $100,000 of assessed property value in July and an $8 decrease in July 2009.

Frank Davis with Vigilant Hose Company explained to the commissioners during a recent town meeting that if the county adopts a countywide fire tax, besides lowering the rate for Emmitsburg citizens, it would mean that it would be easier to adjust the rate in the future because public hearings would not be required to move from one district to the other.

However, towns that are still in the suburban district like Thurmont would still be expected to maintain their current level of volunteerism while paying the higher rate.

Davis asked the town council to support the countywide rate.

“I’ve listened to the pros and cons, am concerned about unfairness, but am in favor of a county wide tax,” said Mary Lou Little with the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company. “For the most part it will be more fair in the long run.”

The reason behind this most-recent request is that the volunteer fire companies in Woodsboro, Carroll Manor, Libertytown, Myersville and Jefferson have requested to move from the suburban district to the urban district. Currently 70 percent of the county’s stations are in the urban district. If all five companies moved to an urban district, more than 80 percent of the county would be in the urban fire district.
Emmitsburg resident Larry Little said, “The time is here that we go with it… I ask the town for support.”

The commissioners did unanimously.

The county will be holding a public hearing on May 15 at 7 p.m. at Winchester Hall in Frederick to hear what the public thinks about going to a single, countywide fire tax or moving some or all of the five requesting fire companies into the suburban fire-tax district.

For additional information please contact the Fire and Rescue Services Division at (301) 600-1536 or the Treasury Department at (301) 600-1111, or by e-mail using the Citizen Request for Service – Fire and Rescue Services link at www.co.frederick.md.us/requesttracker.asp. 

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