Bossier fire chief encourages voters to pass millage in Nov. to upgrade aging equipment
BOSSIER PARISH, La. (KSLA) — Come November, voters in part of Bossier Parish will decide on a millage to update one of the fire district’s equipment.
South Bossier Fire District 2 says on Nov. 8, people will vote on a 3.5-mill tax increase to update the department’s equipment and continue to provide essential emergency services for around 7,000 residents in the area. District 2 covers about 155 square miles of territory from Sligo Road south to the Red River Parish line.
Chief Ryan Foster said he hopes voters in the area will approve the millage because 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,” he said. “In fact, we’ve seen about a 20% 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.”
Foster said the department faces other challenges, too.
“With our current aging fleet, it’s becoming harder to maintain and keep apparatus in service. 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, Foster said, the district has run off one millage (14.59 mills) after a bonded indebtedness was retired early. Then in 2007, the fire chief said, the district did not ask voters to renew the department’s second millage (2.5 mills), which was approved in 1990. The money was initially used to buy fire apparatus and build stations.
“We were able, at that time, to operate under the one millage and to maintain a balanced budget,” Foster 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.”
The proposed millage is expected to raise about $375,000 each year.
“The district will be able to begin saving yearly at a rate to pursue capital purchases needed to maintain current levels of operations,” Foster said. “By saving and spreading our purchases out over years, we will be able to continually rotate newer apparatus into our busier stations.”
If the millage is approved, Foster said he plans to buy two engines, two pumper tankers, a heavy rescue unit, four all-purpose vehicles, various firefighter/EMS equipment and perform an assortment of station upgrades.
“Since 2007, we have been debt free and proud of it. We were able to let our second tax go back to the voters,” he said. “However, to maintain the level of service our residents should expect to receive, we have to meet their needs with modern equipment.
“This is a great area of the parish we protect, and I believe the people will understand why we’re asking for their help.”
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