Last Updated - Friday, February 19, 2010

February 19, 2010


Atlanta - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded $1,247,400 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program to local fire departments and emergency responders in the state of South Carolina.


Mount Pleasant FD Mt Pleasant Operations and Safety - $77,800

Silver Bluff VFD Aiken Operations and Safety - $37,050

Highway 34 Fire & Rescue Greenwood Vehicle Acquisition - $57,000

West Union FD West Union Vehicle Acquisition - $119,225

Laurens City FD Laurens Operations and Safety - $69,322

Broadway FD Anderson Operations and Safety - $142,111

Langley FD Langley Operations and Safety - $93,813

Pelham-Batesville FD Greer Operations and Safety - $34,827

Hobbysville VFD Enoree Operations and Safety - $38,000

Taylors FD Taylors Operations and Safety - $71,397

Pine Grove VFD Lugoff Operations and Safety - $61,625

CKC VFD Blacksburg Operations and Safety - $103,949

City of Bennettsville FD Bennettsville Operations and Safety - $157,666

Macedonia Rural FD Bonneau Operations and Safety - $76,380

Canaan VFD Cope Operations and Safety - $56,115

City of Florence FD Florence Operations and Safety - $51,120

The ongoing challenge for the department is to continue to redefine the fee structure to both provide adequate funding and to do so in a fair and reasonable way, provide the expected return on investment in terms of fire department performance for fee assessed, and meet the goals and objectives as defined in the department's Strategic Plan.

FUNDING ISSUES

The fire district has seen its portion of the rapid and prevalent growth throughout the entire Aiken county and Central Savannah River Area (CSRA).  Fire Service professionals, like the SBVFD are constantly involved in pre-planning, evaluating, and re-planing to expect the unexpected.   Careful consideration of the growth within the district and surrounding districts requires us to prepare for current and future needs compared to the departments financial capability to provide expanded service.  SBVFD will need to provide the same level of service for new residents/developments as the district continues to develop.  A number of SC County governments include fees on developers called “Impact Fees” (authorized under the SC Code of Laws, Title 6,  Chapter 1, Article 9, SECTION 6-1-910 thru 6-1-1050).  This fee is designed to infuse public service providers, like the SBVFD, with impact funds to offset the lack of available funding from the normal post construction/development sources to ensure basic services are available when demanded.  Without Impact Fees, necessary capital projects may not be initiated in time to meet the demand when the services are required.  The Aiken County Government has not included the sector for Fire Service providers, such as the SBVFD, as an organization eligible for distribution of Impact Fees currently collected within the county (Ref. WORK SESSION MINUTES, Tuesday, July 17, 2007).  The County Council only authorized Roads/transportation, EMS, Sheriff, Solid Waste and Parks and Recreation to be recipients of the Aiken County Impact Fees.  Fire Service organizations within the county are currently excluded from consideration for these funds.  Lacking this funding source, the funding burden falls upon the residence of the district and necessitates increased fire fees.  The fire department would be happy to work with a Citizen’s Action Board (CAB) comprised of residents within and outside of District 17 to make proposals to the County Council regarding changes to the current Impact Fee ordinance.  District 17 is represented by both Scott Singer and LaWana McKenzie as our Aiken County Council representatives.  You can contact the SBVFD Chief, Kerry Green or Assistant Chief, Kevin Lancaster to discuss any additional information or issues.


GRAPH 2 - $15 INCREMENT BASED ON VAUE RANGE (NEW FEE STRUCTURE)

To address the lack of impact fees as a funding source for capital improvements for the district and the fee structure bias the fixed fee has towards the low value property owner’s disproportionate funding burden, the Board sought and obtained approval from the Aiken County Council for a new fee structure that would allow adequate funds for future needs and impose that necessary burden in a fair way.  The new fee structure is based on $50,000 increments of property value starting at $85 and increasing by $15 for each $50,000 increment.  For example a $50,000 assessed value will be charged a fee of $85 (0.17%).  A $300,000 assessed value will be charged $160 (0.053%).  A comparison of these two fees shows that although the fee has doubled (from $80 to $160) for this property, the percent of property value this higher fee represents is still more than an order of magnitude less than the fee charged for the $50,000 property in terms of percent of property value.  The graph below illustrates the full spectrum for the new fee structure.  The red line starting high on the left (higher percentage) and lower on the right (lower percentage) still needs to be developed by the Board of Commissioners.

BACKGROUND

The Silver Bluff Volunteer Fire Department’s (SBVFD) new fee structure was developed by the Department’s Board of Commissioners with the objective to ensure the Department can provide the expected emergency services with qualified firefighters utilizing the proper equipment that can be relied upon during a wide variety of possible emergency events within the District 17 coverage area.  A reasonable revenue source is necessary to cover the estimated annual Operations and Maintenance (O&M) expenses and to accomplish the goals and objectives as identified in the department's Strategic Plan.  The fee structure considers the revenue source in terms of population density, followed by fire suppression requirements (structural/brush/auto/etc), equipment needs, and department operational and maintenance estimated costs to support district operations.  District 17 (SBVFD) is mostly comprised of residential properties, equestrian farms, agricultural farms, and small commercial businesses with no manufacturing or industrial bases to draw from.  The fee assessed for each property is not the cost to extinguish a fire at a particular property location but rather is a fee necessary to generate operating revenue to simply run the business of the fire department.   Fire suppression is one of many services the department provides to the district residence.  Equitable and reasonable fees will ensure the residents provide themselves with adequate operating capital to maintain or sustain current efforts and to advance the department and its operations to respond to future needs already planned for the district.  A significant goal is to use the funds to provide a reasonable return on investment and to make strategic decisions that serve to reduce the over all ISO Class rating for the district.  Currently, the ISO Class for District 17, Silver Bluff Volunteer Fire Department is  a split 5/9.  The Department improved by lowering the previous Class 6 rating to a Class 5 in 2006.  This lower class rating allowed an immediate return on investment through reduced hazard insurance premiums for each resident.


GRAPH 1 - $80 FIXED FEE

The graph below illustrates the current fixed fee structure of $80 regardless of property value.  The blue bars represent the property value ranges currently found in the district.  The red line data points are the fixed $80 fee divided by the property value.  This percentage provides the fee burden a property owner contributes based on the actual value of the property.  Examination of this information reveals that the fixed fee disproportionally burdens the lower valued properties in terms of fee on property value.  The $80 fee for a property valued at $50,000 equates to 0.16% of the property value.  Similarly, the same $80 fee compared to a $500,000 property equates to only 0.016% of the property value; one order of magnitude less than the $50,000 property.  Clearly this fixed fee basis is not truly equitable for all property owners and the lower value property owners pay a higher percentage than the higher value property owners.  It is a desire of the Board of Commissioners to propose a fee structure that is fair for all property owners.

Aiken County is not able to make the annual adjustments permanent and therefore this process must be completed annually.


To request the Fire Department waive fire fees, use the form below: