Thursday, October 12, 2017
Morning Star Fire Protection Association dues will be added to real property tax statements starting next year, making it the county's first volunteer fire department to assign billing responsibility to the county tax collector.
The Garland County Quorum Court unanimously adopted an ordinance Monday night to approve Morning Star's petition to add its dues to tax bills. Morning Star will stop invoicing members for payment at the first of the year. Its dues will appear on 2018 tax bills that go out in February and will be prorated for members who paid their annual dues after March 2017.
Paying the dues is not a prerequisite for paying real and personal property taxes, County Tax Collector Rebecca Dodd-Talbert told the quorum court. The enabling state statute authorizes departments to sue members for delinquent payments.
The county clerk's office certified that the petition included signatures that represented more than half the registered voters in Morning Star's Garland County service area who cast ballots in the previous general election.
Meeting the signature threshold allowed the quorum court to place the dues on property tax bills without calling for a special election. Morning Star Chief Nathan Kew said the department collected the signatures of 1,401 registered voters in its 33-square-mile service area in Garland County.
Kew said levying dues on tax bills will improve the department's 63-percent collection rate and allow more time for responding to service calls, testing equipment and other fire protection activities.
The petition voters signed said the rate schedule for dues will be voted on at the department's annual meeting. Residential dues are based on square footage. Commercial dues are also based on square footage and a hazard-rating scale.
The department's coverage area includes 11 square miles in Hot Spring County. Kew said the department plans on petitioning that county's quorum court to begin levying dues on 2019 real property tax statements.Local on 10/12/2017
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