Faced with an aging fleet of fire trucks and ever escalating costs of replacement, the City of Memphis is working with the Scotland County Rural Fire Corporation on budgeting proposals to try to address the current and future needs for fire trucks to serve the community.

The Memphis City Council discussed a number of funding options at a special meeting February 16th.

Scotland County Fire Chief Jimmie Winn and several other local volunteer firemen met with the council as well as with the governing board for the rural fire department service over the past several months to address the need to replace a pumper truck that is more than 40 years old.

The city council began reviewing funding options, not only to replace the department’s oldest vehicle, but also to begin establishing the necessary funding to address future needs, as the department’s newest truck dates back to 2004.

At the February 16th meeting, the council members discussed tax options that might be able to establish a truck replacement fund for fire trucks.

The property tax levy for the city designated for fire protection could be raised to the maximum level, adding approximately 4.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. It is estimated that option would generate approximately $5,000 – $6,000 a year in added revenue.

The city could also consider a special sales tax for fire protection. Up to 1/4 of a cent could be asked for, but would require voter approval. If the city pursued the maximum amount, it could generate up to an estimated $90,000 a year.

Currently the local sales tax rate in the City of Memphis is $0.06475, which compares favorably to area municipalities. The next lowest rate in the adjoining area is in Adair County in Novinger and Brashear which both have a $0.0660 sales tax rate. Sales tax in Lancaster is $0.07225, while Kahoka and Edina both have a $0.07725 sales tax rate. Shoppers in Kirksville pay $0.0785 sales tax, while Unionville’s rate is $0.760. Queen City ($0.08725) and Canton ($0.08975) have some of the higher sales tax rates in the immediate area.

If the fire protection sales tax was sought and approved at the maximum level, it would raise the local sales tax to $0.0670. It could also be pursued at a reduced rate such as 1/8 of a cent ($0.00125) or less depending on the desired revenue amount.

City Clerk Angela Newman also noted that use tax collections are increasing, with legislative changes that have begun to require internet sales to contribute local sales tax. The city will continue to monitor those collection rates, and possibly could utilize increased revenues in that area to help fund a fire truck replacement fund.

The city expects to meet with representatives of the rural fire board in the near future to try to establish some basic budget guidelines for establishing a truck replacement schedule to insure adequate equipment.

Once budgetary numbers are generated for replacement of the old city pumper truck as well as future goals to upgrade and maintain the entire fleet, the two entities will have a better understanding of what type of revenue will be required.

For example, with a targeted ownership period of roughly 20 years per vehicle, and six trucks currently serving the city and county, a truck replacement schedule could theoretically have the department looking to fund a truck purchase every three to five years.

Initial cost estimates for a new truck to replace the 40-year old pumper truck were between $200,000 – $250,000. Used trucks prices were approximately half that cost.

If new equipment is purchased, and an aggressive replacement schedule is installed, council members noted that it would dramatically improve the trade equity the departments would maintain, being able to sell or trade the used trucks for much more to lower the purchase price of the new replacements in the future.

The 2004 new truck purchase by the fire department was funded by a Homeland Security grant. The fire department has continued to pursue grant funding to aid in truck replacement, but currently federal aid money is targeting personal protection gear. The department currently has a grant application seeking $54,000 in funding for new fire suits.

The department recently purchased air pack upgrades, buying used units at a significant cost savings.