Raise the fire fee instead of taxing it

To the citizens of Lewis County:

There is a special election scheduled for the first Saturday in the new year, Jan. 6, 2018.
This special election is costing the citizens of Lewis County approximately 32,000 dollars of funds generated by past fire fees.
First and foremost, we want to make it clear that we support the Lewis County fire departments and the very important services they provide. We understand that fire protection and suppression activities come at a cost.
That being said, we believe the proposed fire levy is not the best and most equitable way of securing the money necessary to support the fire departments and the services they provide.
The purpose of this proposed fire levy is to generate almost $3 million over a five-year period, with each of the six fire departments serving Lewis County receiving close to $100,000 a year for five years, regardless of the area served and the services, personnel and equipment provided. This is an $83,000 increase from the $17,000 that each department receives each year from the current annual fire fees charged.
Currently, each household is assessed a flat $20 fire fee, annually. Businesses are assessed a $50 annual fee. These fire fees help fund the fire departments, along with other funding they receive from state and federal sources.
It is our understanding that although there are provisions to address those that do not pay their current fire fees, the Lewis County Fire Board does not always follow-up to recover unpaid fees.
The proposed fire levy will change the way fire fees are calculated and administered. Under the proposed fire levy, all real and personal property, including homes, buildings, vehicles, boats, farm equipment and property will be taxed at a different rate, based on your property classification.
Businesses will have their assets taxed as well. In addition, citizens living within the Weston city limits will continue to be charged a $100 municipal fee, along with the proposed levy fees.
It should also be noted that as assessed property values increase over time, it will be difficult to correctly assess property owners to maintain the proposed yearly income identified in the proposed levy. Should excess funds be generated, who will receive the surplus monies?
To determine how the proposed levy will affect you personally, you should log onto https://lewis.wvassessor.com/ and use the tax calculator created by the assessor’s office.
For many, the proposed levy will result in a significant increase in their taxes. Citizens should consider the possibility that once passed this levy could very well be brought back before the citizens after the initial five-year period to continue the increased funding levels.
We argue that the proposed fire levy is not the fairest way to secure additional funds needed by the fire departments. We contend  that raising the annual flat fees and making sure that the fees are collected would be a better, more equitable way of securing the funds necessary to support our local fire departments.
In conclusion, we strongly urge each of you to determine how the proposed fire levy will affect you personally before casting your vote on Jan. 6, 2018.

Katy Craig
The Citizens for Tax Relief

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