Central Fire District seeks property tax renewal

Central Fire Protection District No. 4 is seeking voter approval to renew a property tax that accounts for more than a third of the Fire Department’s revenue.

The tax renewal proposition is on the Oct. 19 ballot.

Early voting is Oct. 5-12, excluding Oct. 6.

Proceeds from the 10-mill tax, which has been in effect since the creation of the Central Fire Department in 1985, generally fund a range of the department’s expenses, from salaries to fire hydrant rental fees, Fire Chief Bill Porche said.

“There’s no way that we could provide the level of protection that we do now without the renewal,” Porche said. “It is the bulk of our revenues.”

The Central Fire Department operates five fire stations, employs 30 people full-time and responds to about 3,000 emergencies a year, Porche said.

If renewed, the tax would be collected annually for another 10 years, beginning in 2015 and running through 2024.

The department expects to collect about $1.3 million in 2015, an amount which would increase in subsequent years if property values rise.

A 10-mill tax costs homeowners about $75 a year for a home with an estimated value of $150,000, or $175 for a home valued at $250,000.

The fire district property tax is subject to the Louisiana Homestead Exemption Act, East Baton Rouge Parish Assessor Brian Wilson said.

The exemption deducts $7,500 from the assessed taxable value of the home, significantly reducing the tax burden for many homeowners.

By state law, a home is assessed at 10 percent of its market-estimated value.

District residents voted to renew a 5-mill property tax in 2010, in addition to a $32 annual service fee, which together account for another third of the fire department’s budget.

The fire district has a Class 3 insurance rating out of 10, with 1 being the best.

The Baton Rouge Fire Department has a Class 1 rating. Insurance premiums are tied to the local district’s class rating.