Clarksville has joined Jeffersonville Township in creating a Fire Territory to serve both units of government. The action was by unanimous vote of the two governing boards and paves the way to adequately funding fire protection.
Clarksville has dealt with under funding of its fire department over the years because of the maximum tax collection imposed by the Indiana Department of Local Government Financing which established the maximum amount of taxes that could be raised decades ago. In the intervening time, the needs of the town have grown substantially while the tax levy has been limited to around 3 percent growth annually.
The result has been that we have seen a gradual reduction in the ability of the town’s fire department to provide adequate protection. The matter is compounded by the fact that the department is now asked to provide first responder services to back up and, in some cases, in lieu of ambulance service.
Our business districts have grown substantially as has housing. The result is that the department has been stretched to the breaking point and the lives of our firefighters, as well as residents and business customers, have been at growing risk.
Creation of a fire territory allows the town to partner with another unit of government and establish a new base rate that can provide adequate protection in personnel and equipment. The move has the potential to impact property taxes. Residents who are already at the property tax cap will see no increase. Those who are below the cap will see an increase. Residents of Jeffersonville Township outside of the town have paid only 4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation while town residents have paid around 55 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The fire territory will even out that disparity.
In the end, the increase in fire protection services could reduce insurance rates by giving the town a better fire protection rating.
The unanimous vote of the council shows the determination of the town council to improve safety for our firefighters as well as businesses and residents. We have not taken this action lightly. We realize that because staffing levels of the department are a fraction of levels recommended by national fire safety experts, lives and property have been placed in jeopardy. The move to create the fire territory will help rectify that staffing disparity and allow us to save annually for replacement of fire trucks in order to avoid costly bond issues.