Monday, April 15, 2024

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Elon proposes tax rate for rural fire district higher than post-reval break-even level


Elon’s town council has endorsed a new property tax rate for its rural fire district that not only exceeds the figure needed to make ends meet after Alamance County’s most recent revaluation but even surpasses the rate necessary to offset inflation.

During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, the council unanimously recommended a rate of 8.65 cents for every $100 of property value to be imposed on people outside of Elon’s town limits who rely on the services of its municipal fire department.

Prior to the county’s latest revaluation, these rural property owners had been assessed a rate of 12 cents for every $100 of value in order to pay for the fire protection services they get from the town. In light of the reval’s unprecedented bump to the local tax base, the county’s tax office had estimated that a new “revenue neutral,” or break even, tax rate of 8.07 cents for the town’s fire district.

Elon’s town manager Richard Roedner had suggested the 8.65-cent rate in lieu of the county’s revenue neutral alternative during Monday’s council meeting in order to keep up with what he termed the fire department’s climbing expenses. Roedner went on to acknowledge that his proposal also exceeds the county’s proposed “inflation neutral” rate of 8.62 cents – which the tax office had derived from its revenue neutral figure in order to account for growing operational costs.

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Roedner assured the council that the amount he had suggested was very much in line with the actual needs of the town’s fire department.

“It should be noted that we are proposing to add one firefighter to our department this year,” the town manager added, “so we are experiencing some increased costs in addition to inflation.”

Roedner went on to observe that his recommended tax rate would generate an extra $37,000 from the fire department’s rural customers – enough to cover most, but not all, of the anticipated cost of an additional crew member.

Despite its potential financial repercussions on the fire district’s taxpayers, there was nary a peep from the audience when the council convened a public hearing on Monday to gauge the community’s thoughts on the recommended new tax rate. Meanwhile, the apparent reasonableness of Roedner’s request was reiterated by Elon’s mayor Emily Sharpe prior the council’s eventual decision to endorse the proposed figure.

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Sharpe said as she addressed the rest of the council, “but we’re still understaffed for the size of our town and for our insurance rating even with the additional firefighter.”

The council proceeded to vote 5-to-0 to recommend a rate of 8.65 cents to Alamance County’s commissioners, who will ultimately adopt new tax rates for all of the county’s rural fire districts when it signs off on the county’s next annual budget later this spring.

Read the newspaper’s editorial page opinion on the proposed fire district tax rate:

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