But Thurmont Mayor Marty Burns says some fire companies will get rebates.
Last week's decision by the Frederick County Commissioners regarding the property tax rate may look like a tax increase, but it's not. That's according to Thurmont Mayor Marty Burns. "The bottom line, though, is that they have a public safety requirement. And they're really taking the fire tax and folding it in there. They have to do that. They have to fix the problem. They were subsidizing that fund through the general fund anyway," he says.
The Commissioners voted 4-1 last Thursday to approve a property tax rate of $1.064 per $100 of assessed value, which is about .128 cents more than the current rate of $.0936. Board members say it was the combining of the general fund property tax rate into the fire tax rate. The Commissioners say they took this step because the fire tax districts had been running a deficit for a number of years, and the County has had to subsidize them.
"I think it was a good move. I think it was the only move that they could make unless they were going to increase everyone's fire tax," says Burns. "Fire tax, general fund tax. What difference does it make? I say just throw it in the general fund. I think that's fine for me personally."
But there is some good news out of all this, he says. The Commissioners agreed to provide partial rebates to fire and ambulance companies within the suburban tax district. In Thurmont, that means the Guardian Hose Company and the Thurmont Community Ambulance Company will be receiving some funding. "It's impossible to fold it in equitably," he says. "Thurmont will see a 4.8-cent increase. That was my argument. We were going to see no additional services with that 4.8-cent increase. The County Commissioners agreed that the suburban companies would get at least half of that back. Are we happy with that? Yes, we accept that. We would love 100% back. We're not draining more services from the county. They're actually charging us more for the same amount of services we're currently getting."
Mayor Burns is hoping that this folding of the fire tax into the property tax rate will encourage more people to volunteer their time or their money to their local fire and rescue companies. "We were told that when people saw fire tax on their tax bill, they refused to give because I'm already paying it. And if it's in the general fund, then they're still paying it. But they don't see they're paying a fire tax, they're more willing to donate. So we hope that's the case," he says.
The new tax rate goes into affect on July 1st, 2013, the first day of fiscal year 2014.