John etheredge would kendall taxpayers save if fire districts merged kendall county record georgia state university job fair

The minooka, newark and lisbon-seward fire districts serve the still lightly populated and rural areas in the county’s central and southern regions, while the oswego, bristol-kendall, little rock fox serve the bulk of the county’s more than 130,000 residents who reside in the county’s northern half. Georgia state university foundation at the same time, those fire districts also serve county residents residing in rural areas of their respective districts.

Though characteristics of their service areas vary, property taxes remain a primary funding source for each of the fire districts. North georgia college and state university mascot given their large number, it would seem reasonable to assume that county taxpayers might be able to save some money if there was a single fire district, or, perhaps, two or three fire districts serving different areas of the county. Georgia state university faculty directory under a single fire district scenario, there would be an immediate reduction in fire chiefs and officers–both full and part-time–and, potentially, some reduced administrative costs.

In addition, a single fire district would be charged with providing uniform fire and emergency ambulance services throughout the county, potentially improving fire and life-saving ambulance response times in rural areas.

But a check of the property tax rates for each of the fire district’s shows a vast gulf between what residents who reside in the county’s largest fire districts pay for fire protection and ambulance service with what their neighbors in the county’s rural areas pay. Georgia state university code the oswego fire protection district’s property tax rate this year was 0.7377 cents for every $100 of equalized assessed valuation, while bristol-kendall tax rate was almost identical at 0.7425 cents.

Under oswego’s tax rate, the owner of a home valued at $200,000 that did not claim any exemptions paid $491.79 in property taxes to the first district this year. But the lisbon-seward property tax rate was just 0.2422 cents, one-third the tax rate paid in oswego and bristol-kendall. Georgia state university atlanta ga the newark fire protection district’s tax rate was 0.3496 cents.

Under the lisbon-seward property tax rate, the owner of a home valued at $200,000 paid just $161.46 to the fire district this year. Given the tax rate disparity between the county’s larger and smaller fire districts, residents of the smaller fire districts would likely be wary of any consolidation efforts on the grounds that it could potentially cost them significantly more at tax bill time.

Yes, consolidation of the entire county into a single fire district would mean that the agency’s property tax burden would be dispersed throughout the entire county, resulting in more people, in effect, paying into the same pie. But would that be enough to offset the existing disparity between the tax rates in oswego and bristol-kendall and in lisbon-seward and newark?

A study completed in 2017 for the illinois municipal league by robert herrmann and aaron deslatte at the center for governmental studies at northern illinois university entitled “understanding the drivers and barriers to fire department consolidation in illinois” described the state laws governing consolidation as “outdated and not conducive” to the merger of local governmental agencies like fire departments.

In examining four recent, separate efforts to consolidate fire services in the chicago area they also cited “organizational cultures that reinforce the desire to maintain autonomy.” they noted, “although somewhat intangible, maintaining individual identities is important to the fire service, which is rich in history and tradition.”

Perhaps, most importantly given the state’s complex merger laws and the desire for fire departments to maintain their historic autonomy and traditions, herrmann and deslatte noted that fair-minded leaders are needed to steer any consolidation effort. They wrote: “open-minded leaders that are invested in the consolidation effort need to be in place to overcome the threat of losing autonomy. These individuals must be callable of utilizing momentum and establishing buy-in from the public, political decision makers and fire department personnel.”

A study of a potential consolidation has never been done in kendall county, but it’s something that county officials along with representatives from each of the county’s fire districts might want to consider, at a minimum, just to see if there is a potential for savings as property tax bills continue to climb.