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County considers single fire tax, which would increase tax for Thurmont

(3/20) With five more volunteer fire companies asking for paid personnel, the Frederick County Commissioners are considering creating a single fire tax district, which would increase the fire tax paid by property owners in suburban districts, such as Thurmont.

“I think it’s totally unfair to the Thurmont region,” said Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns. “The Guardian Hose Company has save the county citizens millions of dollars over the life of their existence.”

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 last time the county raised the fire tax, pledge to Guardian Hose fell dramatically,” Burns said.

Burns said if all of the fire tax money came back to the citizens of Guardian Hose Company’s first-due area, “at least it might be palatable,” but that is not the case. He said that Thurmont would still be expected to provide the same level of service and the additional tax money would go to subsidize an area that can’t get volunteers to staff its stations.

“Instead of being rewarded for doing it on our own, we’re being punished,” Burns said.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing on the issue at 7 p.m. on Apr. 22 at Winchester Hall in Frederick. They will be considering making or single tax district or moving the fire companies from Woodsboro, Carroll Manor, Libertytown, Myersville and Jefferson from the suburban district to the urban district. Currently 70 percent of the county’s stations are in the urban district.

“If all of the stations move over to urban, over 80 percent of the county will be in the urban district,” Gardner said.

While Guardian Hose Company can get the needed volunteers to staff its station, Gardner pointed out the reason most requests to switch is not because of the volunteer firefighters but because of missed ambulance calls. This is the case with Emmitsburg’s fire company and ambulance company.

“I think part of the problem is because there’s been a change in what’s delivered,” Gardner said.

Burns said he will also be inviting Mickey Fyock, president of the Frederick County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, to speak to the commissioners about why the association is supporting a single fire tax.

Burns said there has also been discussions among some municipalities about creating their own fire departments for their municipalities. This would at least bring some additional money back into the town through tax equity.

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