Posted: Oct 29, 2021, 4:41 PM
Voters in Bossier Fire District #4 will be asked to approve a two-mill property tax increase dedicated to priority items necessary to help meet the needs of the rapidly growing area north of the Bossier City city limits when they go to the polls Saturday, Dec. 11.
Fire Chief J.T. Wallace said the additional two mills will generate approximately $375,000 annually and proceeds will help fund a $2.5 million bond for equipment and other department necessities.
“We’re asking for this millage increase to help us keep up with the phenomenal growth this areas has seen in the past few years,” Wallace said. “We’re looking ahead 10 to 15 years and we see this district continuing to grow. Our department has to be able to meet the safety needs of the residents here.”
Wallace said the district, which encompasses roughly 174 square miles between Bossier City and Benton, including areas around Cypress Lake. With a north/south thoroughfare extending along Swan Lake Rd. from I-220 to Crouch Rd., even more growth can be anticipated, he said.
Shortly after the parish established special taxing districts charged with providing fire services, District #4 showed a population of roughly 6,500. Today, that number has grown to approximately 30,000 and includes five schools ranging from elementary to high school.
Calls for service have increased from around 600 in 1997 to just over 2,000 in 2020, and the department’s Property Insurance Association of Louisiana (PIAL) fire rating has climbed from Class 5 to Class 3.
“Our department has grown to 30 firefighters and we’re proud of what they’ve accomplished to improve our PIAL classification,” Wallace said. “But with the area we’re covering, the number of residents and households, we are sorely in need of improved equipment to help us even more.”
Wallace said proceeds from the millage increase would help fund new fire engines, tankers, emergency and rescue vehicles, and would replace all self-contained breathing apparatus necessary for firefighters. Funds would also help add living quarters to the existing station on Swan Lake Rd. where firefighters are being housed in a building behind the fire station.
In 1997, the district’s annual budget was just over $546,000 and funded three paid firefighters, one fire chief, one bookkeeper and a part-time clerk. By 2019, the staff had grown to 30 firefighters plus a chief and administrative personnel. The 2020 budget came in at $3.8 million.
“Our growth has outgrown our budget,” Wallace said. “We are very aware of our operating funds, but we also know the importance of the safety of our residents. With the millage increase, we can be certain they will get the protection and service they deserve.”
Wallace said the two-mill increase would not dramatically impact property owners in the district. For example, the owner of a $350,000 home with homestead exemption currently pays $550 annually at the current millage rate. A two-mill increase would add $55 a year, bringing the total to $605.
“We know how everyone feels about paying a little more, but we hope they understand the need we face here in District 4,” Wallace said. “We want to continue providing the best service possible, and we want to keep our eyes on the future of Bossier Parish. We’re growing by leaps and bounds, and our protective services need to keep up.”