Saturday, March 24, 2012

Public Hearing Set to Discuss Mecklenburg Fire District Funding

The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) has set a public
hearing to discuss a new way to fund fire protection services
throughout the unincorporated areas of the region. The hearing is
scheduled for April 3 at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center,
600 East 4th Street, at 6:30 p.m.

Currently 15 volunteer fire departments provide fire protection
services outside Charlotte's corporate limits, funded by a mix of
County contract payments, citizen contributions, and in the case of
volunteer fire departments that provide fire protection within the
towns, contributions by those local governments. As urban growth in
the County continues and volunteer fire department expenses rise,
independent studies have suggested that the current funding method –
directly from the County's general fund -- won't be enough to cover
the costs.

In 2008, an independent consultant's report specifically noted fire
protection service districts as an effective solution to address both
immediate and long-term volunteer fire department budget needs. Fire
protection service districts are used in almost all other North
Carolina counties, and appear to be widely recognized as an
appropriate method for funding fire protection services in
unincorporated areas. This strategy builds on that recommendation

County staff has proposed to the BOCC to create Fire Protection
Service Districts in Mecklenburg County:

• Four Town Extraterritorial jurisdiction ("ETJ") service districts –
one each for the ETJs of the following Towns: Cornelius, Davidson,
Huntersville and Mint Hill.

• A fifth service district for the City of Charlotte's ETJ and the
small area south of Pineville into which Pineville could exercise its
ETJ rights, but has failed to, to be called the "City ETJ Fire

These districts would be created to fund the full cost of providing
fire protection service to all residents of the service district, with
the cost burden carried by all service district property owners,
through the fire protection service district tax. The County would use
the funds raised by the Fire Protection Service District property
taxes to contract with the City of Charlotte, or the towns, or in some
instances, directly with the volunteer fire departments related to a
specific Fire Protection Service District, to provide fire protection
services for that area.