Lee County, MS(WCBI) — In the past year and a half, Tupelo’s borders have expanded as the city annexed 16 square miles. However, that has caused some volunteer fire departments to re-work their budgets, because of a drop in tax revenues.
Rex Haygood and Willie Payne spend a lot of time at the Belden Volunteer Fire Department. Both men have been associated with the VFD for years . Haygood is president of the board of commissioners and Payne is the chief. They are involved in planning the budget for the department, which took a hit when a portion of their land was annexed by Tupelo.
“It throws up a red flag.”
That red flag represents about 43 percent of their budget that was lost because of the annexation.
“The new annex is affecting us about 26 thousand 600 dollars per year.”
That money had been set aside to make payments on this fire truck, purchased six years ago for about 200 thousand dollars.
Now, the Belden VFD will have to dip into its rainy day fund and also explore other options to make up for the shortfall.
Volunteer Fire Departments are supported by a 4 mill tax on each household in their coverage area. But now, the city of Tupelo will provide services to its newly annexed areas, meaning fewer homes for Belden to cover. Also, Belden, along with six other VFDs affected by the annexation, agreed to relinquish taxes from newly annexed residents, ending the prospect of double taxation. It all means there are fewer dollars now for regular maintenance, not to mention unexpected repairs for equipment.
Chief Payne says Belden volunteer firefighters will still back up Tupelo as needed and he says there is a chance Tupelo officials might cover some of the cost of the newest fire truck.
“We work closely with all of our bordering departments and we will continue to forge on and hopefully the city will work with us and we with them and come out with a positive outlook.”
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton says he is open to continuing talks with Belden VFD reps to try and come up with some solution to their budget shortfall.
There are currently 13 members of the Belden Volunteer Fire Department.