Florence Co. gets closer to fire district consolidation

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) Florence County wants to combine its fire districts, and that could change how much you pay for protection.

"A house, in the West Florence Fire District that's valued at $100,000, pays $32 a year, at eight mills. The same house in Johnsonville, at a $100,000 value, pays $160," said Sam Brockington, Florence County Fire and Rescue Coordinator.

At February's county council meeting, Florence County's Fire Chiefs and Fire and Rescue Coordinator, will propose an ordinance requiring everyone in the county to pay the same in fire millage.

"It's unfair taxing throughout the County," said Brockington.

Fire and Rescue Coordinator, Sam Brockington said if council passes this new ordinance,the majority of the people in Florence County, will see a decrease in the millage they pay for fire services. The exception, West Florence, homeowners there will see an increase.

This means if you live in Johnsonville, and own a $100,000 home, you would save $60 a year, but if you live in West Florence, you would be taxed an additional $68 per year.

In the end, it's estimated that on a $100,000 home, you would be taxed about $100 per year, for fire services.

"The budget in the West Florence Fire District has not been raised in years. The situation, they need more career firefighters because of the lack of volunteers," said Brockington.

The West Florence Fire District responds to 1,100 fire calls per year, more than any other district.

Brockington says right now, West Florence isn't collecting enough money to meet its budget needs. And that's one more reason the county's fire districts need to operate out of one budget.

"There has not been a serious fire in this county, in the City of Florence or in anybody's district that we have not had to call for help," said Brockington.

Building a draft for this kind of change has not been easy. Fire officials in the county have been working on this plan for months, and today we learned every fire chief in the county has approved it.

"Overall I think it's going to be for the best, because everybody needs to be equal, so I think it's a good plan," said Chief Larue Hendrix, West Florence Fire Department.

Florence County Council will have to pass this new ordinance through three readings. And if it makes it through February's reading, you'll have a chance in March to voice your opinion at a public hearing.

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