The Walker County Board of Commissioners voted to maintain the current level of fire service for residents and businesses by making an adjustment to the county’s public safety fee. The investment in fire protection comes in advance of an Insurance Service Office (ISO) review later this year, which can affect insurance rates for homeowners and businesses.
“The public safety fee hasn’t changed since we introduced a more equitable funding system in 2017,” said Shannon Whitfield, Chairman, Walker County Board of Commissioners. “For years, we’ve held the line on making an adjustment by managing expenses, depleting the fire department’s fund balance, acquiring grants and using American Rescue Plan Act funds to cover the increased cost of services due to inflation.”
The new rate calls for a $0.14 fee per square foot on all buildings, with a minimum of $125 and maximum of $600 to be charged on a residential house, mobile home, duplex or triplex. The new rate will cost the average homeowner in unincorporated Walker County and the city of Chickamauga about $5 more per month.
While residential dwellings account for a majority of all units in Walker County, the minimum and maximum amounts charged for agricultural, commercial and industrial buildings have also been adjusted. The revised fee structure will generate about $5.45 million annually to fund fire services at their current level, which includes 24/7/365 operations at seven fire stations.
“ISO rated us a 3/3Y in 2019,” said Chief Blake Hodge. “That placed Walker County in the top 12% in the nation for fire protection, ahead of more than 37,800 other cities and counties. By investing in fire services, we can continue to minimize the risk of loss of life when a disaster occurs.”
Property owners will have roughly six-months to prepare for the new rate. The public safety fee adjustment will not take effect until the start of the county’s fiscal 2024 budget year in October.