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Ray: LFD millage request an investment in community
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The Lugoff Fire District of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to accept the proposed $1.07 million budget operating budget from Lugoff Fire Department (LFD) Chief Dennis Ray.

Ray said the budget accounts for LFD picking up the tab for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) employees next year, which will cost $160,000 a year.

Last summer, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) granted the LFD funds to hire three firefighters. The SAFER grant pays for the first two years of three firefighters’ employment, including salaries and benefits, but requires a third year of employment be paid in-full by the LFD.

The budget also accounts for a rise in fuel cost as well as firefighting equipment.

The approved budget calls for Kershaw County Council (KCC) to give LFD a .6 mill increase.

Ray said the .6 mill tax increase will roughly cost $2.50 more in taxes per year for the average $100,000 home.

However, the increase in millage will give LFD an estimated $22,600 in tax revenue per mill.

“It’s extremely important that I can provide the necessary equipment to both full-time and volunteer firefighters,” Ray said. “I think (Kershaw) County Council understands I’m not just asking for an increase for the sake of asking. In an emergency, people expect us to be able to respond. It’s not just a tax increase, it’s an investment in the community.”

Ray said he plans to present the approved budget before KCC as soon as he can be scheduled on its agenda.

Even with the increase fuel prices and rising cost of equipment, Ray said his top priority when formulating the 2011-12 budget was maintaining his staff, including the SAFER grant employees, permanently.  

In the approved budget, Ray has tucked away a little over $50,000 in the contingency fund, which is typically used for unbudgeted expenditures or emergencies.

Ray told the board Monday that he wants this money to be earmarked to go toward paying the wages of the SAFER grant employees during the next budget cycle once the grant funding is exhausted.

“I’ve used numbers for the budget very conservatively,” Ray said, explaining he expects the value of the mill to be worth more than he projected for the budget. Therefore, Ray said, it shouldn’t be a stretch to start saving to take on the full financial responsibility of the SAFER employees in upcoming years.

In other business

LFD was struck by lightning April 28, Ray told the board. The electric surge took out the air conditioning in the front lobby, a refrigerator and a computer.

“Fortunately, the computer it zapped was the oldest one in the building,” Ray said. “Everything is covered under our insurance and will be replaced.”

The LFD has responded to 70 calls since the April meeting and 271 calls since January, Ray said during his chief report.