Jumping straight into budget discussions, the Oak Grove City Council met Wednesday morning to finalize the last remaining components of the 2021-22 fiscal year budget.
The council first discussed the proposed Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department funding with Chief Bill Johnson.
The council has proposed moving to a partially paid fire department in previous meetings.
Council member Janet Edwards first asked Chief Johnson how many firefighters on average would be needed per call if other adjacent agencies were to not respond and without interlocal agreements.
Johnson told the council that different calls require different numbers of firefighters on the scene but at the minimum the one apparatus would need to be fully staffed which requires four to five personnel.
Johnson added that roughly 20-50%, 12-15 firefighters, of his department’s personnel show up to calls.
Edwards also asked Johnson for a recommendation on the department’s funding for FY 21-22.
“I would look around at least the 50% mark,” Johnson said.
Oak Grove’s Financial Director Bobbie Crawford already calculated a target number for next year’s budget using the department’s two previous years.
“This total is $106,700. I bumped that up just a little bit and put in $107, 325. We keep underneath, under $8,000 per year per firefighter,” Crawford said.
Johnson told the council that the department applied for an additional grant, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER).
“We should hear from there later on this year to find out if we got it,” Johnson said.
The total expenditures for the department are $200,000 exactly, said Crawford.
In relation to this topic, Edwards brought up a tax increase on real property to ensure full funding of the volunteer fire department.
“I’m going to be honest, $100 to me sounds like a very very big bargain but I know it’s probably not feasible for every resident,” Edwards said. “I know I would personally pay $100 to have that assurance and I think our firefighters deserve it.”
Edwards added that she doesn’t think that the tax increase is the best course of action.
Crawford elaborated on the real property tax options.
She presented an increase of four% on real property tax which would make the tax go from $.255 per $100 of value to $.265.
“4% is not drastic,” Crawford said.
Crawford introduced the idea of a personal tangible property tax which is actually a state program.
“If we have our current rate from 1.86% to .093, which is $.93 cents per $100. The city will only experience approximately reduced revenue of $50,000 for the entire year. I think our local businesses would benefit,” Crawford said.
She added that if the city had implemented a four% tax increase five years ago, the $80,000 loss of revenue the city is experiencing would be a $400,000 revenue for the city to spend.
Crawford explained that the city hasn’t raised property taxes in roughly 15 years but this increase would greatly benefit the city.