Posted: Jul 26, 2022, 12:21 PM
Voters in South Bossier Fire District #2 will be asked to go to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 8 to approve a 3.5-mill tax increase to update their department’s aging equipment, and continue to provide essential emergency services for roughly 7,000 residents.
District #2 encompasses approximately 155 square miles from Sligo Rd. south to the Bossier Parish-Red River Parish line.
Fire Chief Ryan Foster said he hopes voters in the district will understand the needs his department is facing in times when his budget has not increased to meet the rising costs of updated equipment.
"We have some of our front-line equipment that's almost 30 years old, and we've watched prices for pumpers and commercial tankers go up while our income hasn't increased," Foster said. "In fact, we've seen about a 20 percent budget reduction over the last few years, and that leaves very little to save for future expenditures. The budget reduction has caused us to reduce staffing levels through attrition in order to support increased cost of daily operations."
Increased prices for new equipment isn't the only problem Foster and his department is facing. Keeping older equipment operational for emergency calls is often difficult.
"With our current aging fleet, it's becoming harder to maintain and keep apparatus in service," he said. "It's becoming more and more difficult to find parts for equipment nearing 30 years of service. Last year we waited six months for engine parts on one truck and three months for pump parts on another."
For the past 15 years, South Bossier Fire District #2 has operated off one millage (14.59 mills) when a bonded indebtedness was retired early. In 2007, Foster said the district did not ask voters to renew the department's second millage, a 2.5 mill revenue stream that was approved in 1990. This 2.5 mill bond was initially used to purchase fire apparatus and build fire stations.
"We were able, at that time, to operate under the one millage and to maintain a balanced budget," he said. "We are proud to have been able to do that. We added personnel, rebuilt an existing fire station to house a staffed crew, while being able to maintain and replace our equipment. Even now we live within our means, but we have needs that we must meet."
Foster predicts the proposed 3.5 mills will raise a little over $375,000 annually. With that additional income, he will implement a plan to purchase needed equipment over a number of years.
"The district will be able to begin saving yearly at a rate to pursue capital purchases needed to maintain current levels of operations," he said. "By saving and spreading our purchases out over years, we will be able to continually rotate newer apparatus into our busier stations."
With the additional funds generated by the 3.5 mills, Foster said his equipment list includes two engines, two pumper tankers, one heavy rescue unit, four all purpose vehicles and an assortment of station upgrades and firefighter/EMS equipment.
"Since 2007 we have been debt free and proud of it. We were able to let our second tax go back to the voters. However, to maintain the level of service our residents should expect to receive, we have to meet their needs with modern equipment," he said. "This is a great area of the parish we protect, and I believe the people will understand why we're asking for their help."