04/05/14 395 W - + 7 - 2 Wake County Conducting Study on Fire Service Funding Allocations

That might be old news to anyone who follows the actions of the Wake County Fire Commission, but it's received some press in this Wake Forest Weekly story by David Leone, about the town's fire department's plans to build a fourth fire station. The story centers on the project's funding, and questions from the town's commissioners. The $2.2 million facility will be located at 1509 Jenkins Road, an "edge-of-town location" that's needed due to the many calls answered in "rural Wake Forest." Like most other towns in the county, the fire department serving Wake Forest is also contracted by the county to provide protection in unincorporated areas around Wake Forest.

The fire department receives most of its $4.4 million budget through town funding, via a 10 cents per $100 valuation fire tax. Fire Chief Ron Early seeks an increase in that tax, to fund the firefighters who will staff the station. Can the county contribute additional funding? Good question. As the story reports, both town leaders and Fire Chiefs have "long complained that the county doesn't fairly reimburse town departments for the cost of providing service to rural areas."

As the story continues, Wake County Fire Services is conducting a study to see if the process can be made more equitable. Emergency Services Consulting is doing the study. The first draft is due this month. Fire chiefs and town managers will be asked for input. The final draft of the report will be received by "county fire service board of directors" (believe that means the county fire commission) by June. Their recommendation (toward changes in funding allocations) will be sent to the Wake County Commissioners. No changes will take effect until the next budget year, however. And even then, notes the story, "major changes may be implemented in tiers over time to lessen [any negative impact] on fire departments."

That's my rewrite of the gist of the issue, via the Wake Forest Weekly story. What points were missed, or under/over emphasized? You tell me! And one thing's for certain.

'Tis an exciting time to watch Wake County's fire services, with better data and documentation being sought as the engine of change is revved higher and higher.

Read the Wake Forest Weekly story

Read earlier Wake Forest News story about Station 4

The municipal cost share is (in my opinion) a “conundrum” where historical methods have resulted in a modern issue. How we have arrived at the existing percentages is a mystery to many (although I have my theories). It is also a place many “do not want to go” for fear of funding changes (by the county) to the existing participating municipal based organizations. The current share is viewed by many as disproportional and lacking equity – hence the study. I am interested to see the recommendations of the study as it may/will(?) set an updated county funding methodology for “municipal based” departments. I predict some difficult conversations on the horizon.
A.C. Rich - 04/06/14 - 11:07

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