Webster Parish’s newest fire district is asking residents to say yes on November 4 to a 10-mil ad valorem (property) tax dedicated to fire protection in the areas outside the town limits of Sibley.
“The Property Insurance Association of Louisiana is forcing the town of Sibley to stop free fire coverage,” Fire District No. 2 board chairman Brent Hunt explained. “This is a new tax. We’ve never paid a fire tax in our district before.”
Fire District 2 was drawn in February of this year by the Webster Parish Police Jury and encompasses areas around Sibley no more than seven miles from the fire station, Hunt said. If voters in the district say yes in November, funds from the tax will be used to purchase fire protection from Sibley’s volunteer department.
“This has been coming for years and it’s been put off and put off. Now, it’s time to address it,” Hunt said. “We’re one of the only fire districts around that pays no fire tax at this time.”
Hunt said the board’s intentions are to assess the full 10 mil the first year if the tax passes. At the end of the year, the total will be reevaluated.
“We will see how much comes in that first year and we can assess what we need. We don’t have to assess the full millage, but we can’t go over the amount approved by the voters,” Hunt said.
A 10-mil tax should create an income of around $110,000, Hunt said. The proceeds will not only be used to purchase fire protection for the district but to assist with the purchase of equipment for Sibley’s fire department.
“We can spend the money on anything to do with fire protection for the district,” Hunt said. “Sibley’s fire department budget is approximately $80,000 annually, so anything we can contribute will help them in their budget.”
Hunt said for the past three years about 60 percent of the Sibley department’s fire responses have been in District 2. If the tax passes, the district’s board of directors can look at that percentage of Sibley’s budget as a good starting point in negotiating a price for fire protection.
One of the most important points for district residents to consider is the potential insurance savings they could realize if the tax passes, Hunt said. Currently, the district’s fire rating is a class 6, which Hunt says is good for a rural area without a fire department. But, he noted, if the tax does not pass, the district’s rating could fall to a class 10.
Figures provided by the district’s board show insurance costs on property with a value of $100,000 and a class 6 rating at $1,097.52 annually. Insurance on that property with a class 10 rating would be $1,699.10, a difference of $601.58.
Property valued at $200,000 would carry an insurance cost of $1,545.86 for a class 6 rating; $200,000 worth of property would see a $2,399.02 insurance cost on a class 10 rating for a difference of $853.16.
“One of the problems we could face if this tax fails and we go to a class 10 is finding insurance,” Hunt said. “Many insurance companies will not insure class 10 properties.”
Cost to property owners if the tax passes is not exorbitant, Hunt said. Owners of a dwelling valued at $75,000 will pay nothing in additional taxes, while the owner of property valued at $100,000 will pay an additional $25 per year. Those whose property is valued at $200,000 would pay an additional $125.
“No one wants a tax. I don’t favor a tax under most circumstances, but this is the only tax that will save us money in the long run,” he pointed out.
Hunt said board members have been going door-to-door explaining the proposition and have scheduled a meeting for Thursday, October 16 to explain what the tax would mean to residents of the district. That meeting will be held at Sibley Town Hall beginning at 6:30 p.m.
“We would urge everyone who would be affected to come and discuss this with us,” Hunt said. “We’ve been trying to get the public to come and talk about it. We’ve seen public officials, but we need to see the people.”