Leonardtown, MD — The Second District Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad (VFD&RS) and the Mechanicsville Volunteer Rescue Squad (VRS) have requested increases in the tax rate for monies they receive from residents in their first due districts. Second District VFD&RS serves residents of the Second and and Ninth election districts and Mechanicsville VRS serves residents of the fourth and Fifth election districts.

The proposed tax increases were presented to the county commissioners Wednesday, Jan. 28 and will be the subject of separate local public hearings the week of Feb. 23.

The proposal from the Second District VFD&RS is for monies for debt service on “loans needed to pay to renovate and expand the existing facility, as well as vehicle replacement,” according to material presented to the commissioners. The proposal would mean an average increase in the fire and rescue tax for the residents of the two districts of $70.06 in the first year. The actual amount would depend on the assessment of each the 3,720 properties in the Second Election District and 225 in the Ninth Election District.

The Mechanicsville VRS proposal is to raise monies for “operating and equipment expenses.” The proposal would mean an average increase in the rescue tax for the two districts of $14.01. The actual amount would depend on the assessment of each of the 5,093 properties in the Fifth Election District and 3,880 properties in the Fourth Election District.

For the Second District VFD&RS, the fire tax for the Second District would increase from 4.4 cents per $100 assessment to 5.6 cents. For the Ninth District the increase would be from 3.6 cents to five cents. The rescue tax for that department would increase from .8 cents to two cents for both the Second and Ninth districts.

For the Mechanicsville VRS proposal, the rescue tax for both districts would increase from .8 cents to 1.4 cents.

Donald Ocker, a volunteer who is not a member of the department, spoke to the commissioners on behalf of the Second District VFD&RS. He said the department hired a consultant to investigate their needs and the consultant came up with recommendations. The department opted for a renovation and expansion instead of a new facility.

Ocker explained the department had public meetings on their own to explain the proposal. In spite of their outreach attempt, Commissioner Mike Hewitt [R-District 2] said that a petition with more than 200 names had been presented opposed to the tax increase. Hewitt said with so many people opposed, “It would be hard for this commissioner to vote for you,” and added that the department needed to do some more outreach to explain what they were doing.

Earlier Ocker noted, “No one gets elected on raising taxes but this is for safety. It needs to be done in their opinion.”

Greg Adams, who has been with the department for 60 years, told the commissioners that the department was attempting to be as open as possible about their request. He said copies of the consultant’s report are available on the department’s website: http://sdvfdrs.org/

The Second District VFD&RS currently has 102 volunteers who made 1145 calls last year in their first due area and 336 mutual aid calls. Its budget for Fiscal Year 2015 is $760,385.

Victor Demattia made the presentation on behalf of the Mechanicsville VRS with President James Breeden sitting beside him. In Breeden’s letter to the commissioners in support of the request, he said “The cost of a new ambulance has increased from approximately $125,000 in 2002 to over $250,000 in 2015. A replacement ambulance must be purchased every three years, giving each ambulance a 12-year life cycle.”

Demattia noted an active auxiliary contributes $50,000 to $90,000 every year for the squad’s operation. That is coupled with declining tax revenue due to reassessments. He said the squad has been fiscally responsible and this year’s request was the first ever made by them.

The Mechanicsville VRS has 130 members with about 40 of them making regular calls. They run 2,000 calls a year in the geographically largest first-due area in the county. There current operating budget is $760,385.

After the local public hearings on the two proposals, the commissioners will decide whether to put the requests in their recommended budget that will go to public hearing April 14. On that night separate public hearings would be held on each fire and/or rescue tax proposed increase presented.

Contact Dick Myers at news@thebaynet.com