Moncure Fire District requesting tax rate increase, but county staff rejects

Posted 5/29/20

The Moncure Fire District has requested a two-cent increase in the area’s fire tax rate, but the Chatham County FY 2020-2021 budget does not approve it, citing financial concerns.

That didn’t …

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Moncure Fire District requesting tax rate increase, but county staff rejects

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Posted

The Moncure Fire District has requested a two-cent increase in the area’s fire tax rate, but the Chatham County FY 2020-2021 budget does not approve it, citing financial concerns.

That didn’t stop Moncure Fire Chief Robert Shi from asking the county’s board of commissioners to reconsider.

“We’re fully aware that this is probably not the best time to do this, but we do feel this is urgent and desperately needed,” Shi said at the May 18 commissioners’ meeting in Pittsboro.

Shi said the entire increase — which would account for $167,386 over the previous year’s budget — would go toward increasing salaries for all seven full-time staff members except Shi himself. The hike would also allow for hiring more staff for “when volunteers are scarce,” he said, “which is more and more these days.”

The county budget proposal does not recommend any tax rate increases at this time. Three other departments had initially sought increases, but each withdrew their requests.

“This decision was made due to the uncertainty of current and future economic conditions within the county,” the budget document states. “All departments will continue to provide the same level of fire protection services to the area served within Chatham County.”

Moncure’s rate, if the increase is approved, would go from 12.5 cents to 14.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The fire district already has the county’s highest fire tax rate — Circle City, which includes Pittsboro, is at 12.25 cents. The maximum fire tax rate allowed by state law is 15 cents.

Instead, the county budget proposal recommends keeping the rate the same. Even keeping the same rate, the budget projects an increase in property tax revenues of $29,227 from the previous year.

Shi said at last week’s commissioners’ meeting that the department was running more calls for service in recent months and that Moncure doesn’t have a full-time ambulance in the area. Thus, he said, the fire department is often the first responder to emergencies and can serve as a “stop-gap measure until EMS can hopefully come from Pittsboro.”

“This is vitally important to the health of our citizens,” Shi said.

The commissioners will take a final vote on the budget proposal at their June 15 meeting. The full budget document is available online at chathamnc.org/annualbudgets.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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