Saturday, Dec. 11 could prove to be a pivotal day for Benton Fire District #4 when voters in the district go to the polls to decide on a request for a two-mill tax increase.
Fire Chief J.T. Wallace, in an October letter to residents served by the district, said “It has become apparent that our ability to continue providing our current level of service is in question if additional revenue for capital improvements is not secured.”
Wallace has said the district’s current $3.8 million budget does not include funds for the purchase of necessary equipment to keep up with the anticipated demands of one of the fastest growing areas of Bossier Parish.
“We have always operated with a functional budget that keeps us operating day-to-day,” he said. “We always plan for the future, but growth in our protection area has just been amazing and it’s continuing. We have to grow the department to keep up with the growth within our fire district.”
What the department needs is several pieces of up-to-date equipment, Wallace said. He and his staff prepared a minimum equipment list and projected capital outlay projects for the next 15 years. That list, he said, is a direct result of increased demand for fire services from a growing population.
At the top of the equipment list is four new fire engines at a total cost of $2.9 million. Also, two tanker trucks are listed at cost of $300,000 each. Two rescue vehicles costing $80,000 each and eight all-purpose vehicles totaling $360,000 are needed.
Other items include a $375,000 remodeling project that would add living quarters at the current district fire station, and money for standard equipment such as self-contained breathing apparatus, bunker gear for firefighters, replacement fire hoses and emergency-related hydraulic tools.
Total cost of Wallace’s projected needs is just over $5.4 million.
“Our operating budget simply cannot provide funds for the equipment we need,” he said. “This millage, if passed, will generate approximately $375,000 annually. The proceeds will help fund a bond to help purchase necessary equipment.”
Fire District #4 encompasses roughly 174 square miles between Bossier City and Benton, including areas around Cypress Lake. Shortly after the parish established special taxing districts in 1989 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.