Anderson Co. Fire Commission wants tax increase for new equipment

The fire trucks in Anderson County are between 15 and 30-years-old.

ANDERSON COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) –    The Anderson County Fire Commission wants the Anderson County Council to approve a four millage rate increase.

The money would solely be used for new equipment for volunteer fire departments.

Currently, there are 27 volunteer fire departments in Anderson County and around 850 volunteer firefighters.

The last time there was a millage increase, the amount per $1,000 used to calculate taxes on property, in Anderson County for fire services was in 1987.

“We see that we’re going to fall short if we don’t do something,” Anderson County Fire Chief Jimmy Sutherland said.

In order to increase the millage rate, the Commission wants to pass a 10 year bond which would cost around $28 million but not exceed $30 million. Sutherland says they already have a plan as to how the money will be spent year by year, and after 10 years, the rate would go back to what it is currently.

The cost to families would be about $16 for a $100,000 home.

Firefighters say their equipment is old, and new equipment is expensive.

“Back in ’87 a fire truck cost us almost at $87,000,” Sutherland said. “We just purchased two at almost a million dollars.”

There are also federal demands for replacing equipment which puts a strain on the budget.

“Anderson County has 27 fire departments, so even a small thing like tires becomes a very big expense,” State Senator Mike Gambrell said.

Gambrell says the legislature is responsible for approving the budget for the fire commissions.

“They’ve been very frugal with the way they spend their money..They’re one of the good stewards of the taxpayers money,” Gambrell said.

However, it’s now becoming a public safety issue.

“Something could go wrong in route and they not make it,” Sutherland said. “Having good equipment, if you have to rescue people, it makes them feel safer”

The county already saves money by having one of the largest numbers of volunteer firefighters in the country.

Fire officials say new equipment is also a key factor in keeping home insurance rates down.

“Would you rather spend $16 or an extra $100 on your insurance premium,” Gambrell said.

Anderson County Council says the earliest this proposal would come before council is the end of January.

The rate increase would not include cities with their own fire departments such as Anderson, Williamston, Belton and Honea Path.

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