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Macon commissioners hear tax increase requests from four fire departments

Four Fire departments across Macon County spoke to members of the Board of Commissioners on May 26, each asking for increases to the millage rate for their individual budgets. An increase in operating costs and a need for paid employees lead to the requests for increases to Burningtown-Iotla, Cullasaja, Franklin, and Otto Fire Departments. 

To generate an additional $119,609 annually, the Burningtown-Iotla Fire Department requested an increase in the department’s tax rate from .1056 to .1596. Fire Chief Mike Shuler told commissioners the increase is needed for facility repairs to the department’s main station, built in the 1980s as well as to upgrade equipment and provide salaries to part-time employees. 

To generate an additional $75,785 annually, Cullasaja Fire and Rescue is requesting an increase from .0557 to .0720. According to Jack Baird, Cullasaja Fire and Rescue has not received an increase to their tax rate since 2008. Baird said the additional funding is needed to construct a new substation, purchase a new fire truck, and add a new paid firefighter position to the department while also increasing the stipend for paid firefighters. 

With one of the largest districts and budgets in the county, Franklin Fire and Rescue requested increasing the department’s tax rate from .0545 to .07 in order to generate an additional $252,694 annually. Franklin Fire and Rescue Chief Ben Ormand said the increase request is two-fold. Part of the increase would be used to fund three full-time firefighters and the other half to purchase new equipment. 

To generate an additional $95,752 annually, Otto Fire and Rescue requested to increase the department’s tax rate from .1 to .1192. Otto Fire and Rescue Captain Barry Cabe said the increase is needed to begin the construction of a new fire station. The request from Otto Fire and Rescue marks the second year a tax increase request has been made, however, Otto was only granted a partial increase last year, due to uncertainty during the pandemic. Cabe noted that the additional increase is needed to move forward with the project. 

Commissioners will weigh in on the budget during a budget work session on Tuesday, June 7 at 5 p.m. Roland’s proposal serves as a recommendation and is scheduled to receive public comment during the June meeting scheduled for June 14 at 6 p.m. 

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