Property tax bill takes next step

Published 10:50 pm Thursday, February 18, 2010

A bill that could mean more funding for the county’s volunteer fire departments and road department took another step this week toward its passage.

The Pike County Commission received the official bill drafted by the state Legislative Reference Service, and after advertising for three weeks, the bill could soon meet approval at the state level.

If it meets the OK in both the state House and Senate, a bill to add an additional 2-mills to the property taxes collected on homes outside of the city of Troy will come before the voters in the June.

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With the additional revenue collected, the mills will be split, one for the nine volunteer fire departments in Pike County and the other for the Pike County Road Department.

Commissioners agreed officially last week to use 40 percent of its share for repairing and improving roads and bridges maintained by the county road department and to “retire debt incurred for county road and bridge projects.”

The remaining 10 percent of the commission’s half will be allotted to relieve administrative costs that come with collecting and distributing additional ad valorum taxes.

Revenue Commissioner Curtis Blair said he anticipates each mill to generate around $138,000 per year.

In perspective, someone who pays taxes on a $100,000 property would pay an additional $20 to the already $370 they are paying if the tax passes.

Pike County Commissioners have said the county road department that has had to sell equipment to make ends meet in the last year, could use the additional funding.

Pike County Volunteer Firefighters said this funding could help them keep the station’s doors open.

“Right now, we’re pretty much breaking even on stuff, and we don’t have any money to buy any extra or new equipment,” said Ray Armstrong, chief of the Springhill Volunteer Fire Department and treasurer of the Pike County Volunteer Fire Fighters Association. “We’re in need of some new equipment we can’t afford to buy.”

Currently, the only steady funding source these volunteer departments receive are from tobacco tax revenues. Armstrong said these are typically around $13,000 to $14,000 per year.

Last year, Armstrong said the departments also received an additional $1,700 from the Alabama Forestry Commission.

He said operating expenses vary for each department, but on average it costs around $20,000 each year to fund.

Therefore, fire departments work each year to raise some $6,000 or $7,000 to operate.

“That’s the only two sources we get money from and anything else we get is from donations,” Armstrong said.

The passage of an additional property tax could mean around $15,300 for each department, excluding Troy’s fire department, which is not volunteer and funded by the city.

“Until we get some new revenue, we can’t buy any equipment. We can’t improve our service any until we do that. We’re kind of at a stand still right now,” Armstrong said.

If the bill passes in June, it will be implemented immediately and will become retroactive effective Oct. 1, 2009.

That means, residents would play property taxes for this year, as if the tax was already in place.

“It would not be prorated,” said County Administrator Harry Sanders.

“It would be for the entire year.”