The Lewis County Commission voted to approve the special referendum for the fire levy, scheduled for Jan. 6, 2018. If passed, the levy would provide needed funding for all six volunteer fire departments.
Lewis County has four tax rate classes, with Class I exempt as it is made up of churches, schools, and cemeteries. Class II is made up of residences that are used exclusively by the owner for living. Residents in this class can own other property, but Class II is only for primary living dwellings.
Class III is all property and real estate outside city limits which is not used for primary living purposes: Unoccupied dwellings that are used infrequently or not at all. Class IV is exactly the same as Class III, but is used for property inside city limits.
The Lewis County Assessor’s Office has set up on their website an interactive feature that allows residents to type in the assessed value of their property and it will calculate the tax adjustment with the fire levy.
That website is www.lewis.wvassessor.com. The proposed fire levy, if passed, would add .000368 cents per hundred dollars on the assessed value of their property. Including the school excess, board of education, county, and state levies, residents would be paying .009080 cents per hundred dollars on the assessed value of their property.
This levy would provide roughly $99,000 each year to each department for the next five years. Depending on how Lewis County’s tax rate fluctuates, this amount could change, but the amount the departments receive would remain the same.
An example would be a $100,000 home assessed at $60,000. Including the pool levy residents paid approximately $523 in taxes, plus the fire fee, which is currently still in place, for a total of $548. After the inclusion of the fire levy, if passed, this same property would pay approximately $545 in taxes, without the currently existing fire fee, for a total of $545.
The tax only affects real and personal property, and no revenue is taxed under the proposed levy. The proposed levy was also approved by the state auditor, as well.
The county fire departments have compiled a list of what the levy funds would be used for, with the bulk of that going towards vehicle acquisitions, operations, materials and equipment, general supplies, facilities, and insurance.
Worker’s compensation is a huge expense for fire departments. Most departments have developed a five year plan regarding the levy funds.
Volunteer fire departments must maintain the same standards as paid departments. The website, www.firemarshal.wv.gov, gives detailed information about required training and requirements for all West Virginia Fire Departments.
A link is available on the Jane Lew Volunteer Fire Department’s Facebook page, as well.
County chiefs and the Office of Emergency Management made the decision several years ago to send two departments out on every call.
All six fire departments signed mutual aid agreements within the county and with surrounding county fire departments. Mutual aid agreements were signed
between emergency responders that best suits the needs of the residents and the area they protect.
Each fire department has allotted an equal amount of money to pay for the ballots and the poll workers.
Residents can find their assessed value on their tax tickets. If that cannot be located, call the assessor’s office at 304-269-8205 or the Lewis County Sheriff’s Tax Department at 304-269-8222. The assessed value of a property is what is taxed.
Residents 65 years of age and over or those who are 100 percent disabled can file a homestead exemption through the assessor’s office, which qualifies them for a $20,000 decrease in their assessed property value. If a property assesses at less than $20,000 and a homestead exemption is in place, that property owner will not pay any taxes, including all levies. Currently those who fall into this category are still paying the $25 fire fee. If the levy passes, this fire fee will no longer be collected.
Weston residents pay a municipal fee of $100, which is divided between the Weston Police Department, the Weston Street Department, and the Weston Fire Department.
The amount comes to roughly $33 per the three departments. That fee will not be adjusted if the levy passes. Residents of Jane Lew do not pay municipal fees.
Lewis County Fire Board President, Bobby Stewart III, asked that residents educate themselves regarding the proposed levy.
He stressed that people check with the assessor’s office for detailed information regarding their own property.