Public Hearing on Fire District Changes, October 20th 2015
The Buncombe County Commissioners will vote on consolidation of districts and name changes of the Buncombe County fire districts on October 20th after a required public hearing. The public hearing is established to allow the Buncombe County staff and fire departments to provide information regarding the changes in fire districts.
Currently the fire districts in Buncombe County consist of multiple types of tax districts to include; Rural Fire Protection Districts, Fire Service Districts, and a mixture of both. Buncombe County is provided fire, rescue and EMS protection by nineteen fire departments, however there are thirty five different tax districts throughout the County. This process will consolidate all of the current fire districts into nineteen separate districts which will match each fire service insurance district mandated by the North Carolina Office of State Fire Marshal and Department of Insurance.
The process of matching County fire tax districts with State insurance districts will involve abolishing some existing districts and creating new districts. During the process, in accordance with North Carolina General Statutes, each district will provide the current or future ability for each department to receive tax revenue to provide fire, rescue, and EMS services through the establishment of the districts.
The process only increases the tax rate for five parcels in the County, which was incorporated into an existing district with a higher fire tax rate. The fire tax rate process will remain the same as it always has, with the governing body of the fire department establishing a budget, which recommends a tax rate to the County Commissioners and is determined by the County Commissioners.
The goal of this process is only to simplify the fire tax districts and ensure cohesiveness with fire insurance districts to eliminate confusion and issues with multiple districts. Upon completion of this process all fire departments will be established equally with the same type of district and governed by the same North Carolina General Statute.
Below are frequently asked questions which were derived during the process of adjusting fire districts.
Will this increase fire tax?
This process itself does not increase fire tax except for five parcels in the Haw Creek area which were not in the proper fire district previously. The governing body of fire departments establishes a budget and requests the fire tax rate which is determined by the County Commissioners.
The information states fire, rescue and EMS; does that mean that every department must provide an ambulance?
The North Carolina General Statute identifies what can and cannot be established within a service district. The listing of EMS in the name of the district allows the department to provide EMS with or without an ambulance currently, or in the future, which is governed by the NC Office of EMS.
Is this a process for consolidation?
This process does not consolidate any fire departments it only consolidates different tax districts within a current fire department insurance district. The County has noted that the current method of delivery of fire, rescue and EMS services to the residents of the County is the most efficient process.
What are the current districts and what are they changing to?
Currently some of the districts are rural fire districts and some are service districts both of which may be within one fire insurance district. The process will create one service district for each insurance district.
Why should we make the change from the current 35 districts to 19 districts?
Currently there are 19 fire departments, each of which has a single insurance district. Upon completion the service districts will match the current insurance districts required by the NC Office of State Fire Marshal and Department of Insurance creating cohesion and eliminating confusion and issues.
Does the service district change anything in regards to taxes?
The service district more clearly defines the current capabilities and services provided by the fire departments. Where a current rural fire protection district exists, it is limited to a 15 or 10 cent fire tax rate where the service district is limited by the County Commissioners. Any fire tax increase currently or in the future must be approved by the County Commissioners who require justification for tax increases.
Does the service district change any services fire departments currently provide?
The service district does not change any of the current services provided.
Will this simplify my tax bill?
Currently your tax bill identifies one of the 35 fire districts in the County which may or may not match the name of the fire department that provides protection to you. Upon completion of this process you will know exactly which fire department your fire tax goes to and provides protection to you and your property.
Who can I call to get more information about this?
You can contact your local fire department and ask to speak with the Fire Chief who can answer any questions about the process and how it may affect you.
What is the bottom line for tax payers?
The tax payers, with exception of the five parcels which will be placed within the proper fire district, will see no affect in this process except a clearer understanding of where their fire tax goes.
Will this affect my homeowners insurance?
This process will not have any negative effects on your homeowners insurance; however it will clearly define the fire tax district with the insurance district eliminating confusion to ensure everyone has the correct insurance rates.