Town to share proceeds with local departments that serve unincorporated land
by Kara Lopp
The new fire tax district for residents in Mecklenburg County’s unincorporated areas starts July 1. And the new measure means a new way to contract for fire services – with the Town of Mint Hill leading the way.
Town commissioners voted Thursday, June 14 to contract with the county for fire services for its Extraterritorial Jurisdiction, or ETJ. According to the agreement, the county would pay the town about $500,000 per year for the service, which the town would split between several local fire departments that would respond to emergencies in the ETJ. Money would also go toward hiring more firefighters. Though contracts with the individual departments haven’t yet been finalized, Mint Hill Town Manager Brian Welch recommends giving the following amounts:
• Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department: $180,000
• Idlewild Volunteer Fire Department: $130,000
• Midland Volunteer Fire Department: $5,000
• Town of Mint Hill: $185,000 (to pay for the hiring of three additional full-time firefighters)
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the town … to help grow that service and, quite frankly, get these folks out in the county to help pay for the services they’ve been receiving,” Welch said.
Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners voted this spring to implement the fire tax, setting a rate of 7 cents per $100 of taxable property.
Mint Hill is one of five service districts affected by the new tax. The tax will affect only residents who live in Mint Hill’s ETJ, leaving untouched those living within the town limits who already pay for fire services. Unincorporated areas near Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and Charlotte also will pay the new tax. Matthews doesn’t have an ETJ.
Currently, Mint Hill residents and those living in the town’s ETJ receive the same fire protection, but are paying for it at different rates. This would ensure all residents pay an equal rate for the services they receive.
This is the fourth time since the early 1990s the county has tried to establish a fire tax on residents living in unincorporated areas, Mecklenburg County Fire Marshal Mark Auten said recently. The county currently pays $2.5 million annually to provide fire service for areas not within city or town limits. The service is primarily funded through grants used to sustain volunteer fire departments, as well as fundraisers and donations.