The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 27, 2013

Extend sales tax to help rural firefighters

Enid News & Eagle

— Garfield County voters on Oct. 8 have the chance to continue a small sales tax that has saved lives and property.

Voters will go to the polls then to continue the one-tenth cent rural fire safety sales tax for another 10 years, through Dec. 31, 2024. Money generated from the current tax, which expires Dec. 31, 2014, benefits 12 rural volunteer fire departments in the county, helping them with everything from operational expenses to purchasing new equipment. This will be the third extension of the tax if the measure is approved.

Visit any fire department in the smaller communities in Garfield County and you will see the results of your support. You will see new stations, new trucks and new equipment.

When the first tax was proposed in 1996, there were 10 volunteer fire departments in the county, and they struggled with broken-down equipment and a lack of a consistent revenue stream. Garfield County Public Safety Association lobbied for a quarter-cent sales tax, and it passed overwhelmingly.

In 2000, voters again overwhelmingly approved a five-year tax, this time for one-tenth of a cent. It allowed for a consistent revenue stream for the departments, which by that time had their immediate and much-needed equipment needs met. Voters also approved a nine-year extension in 2005.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30 each of the 12 rural departments received about $89,000.

Rural firefighters perform a valuable service. They are the first responders to fires and accidents in their regions. Think about what would happen — the property and lives that could be lost — if Drummond didn’t have a fire department and there were a major fire, and the closest firefighters to respond had to come from Enid.

This revenue stream for our rural fire departments is vital. Equipment wears out and needs to be replaced. It would be a shame for our volunteer firefighters to be left without working equipment when they try to respond to an emergency.

Vote yes Oct. 8 for safety. Vote yes Oct. 8 for continuation of the fire safety sales tax.