City continues with fire tax hike

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Riley

GREENFIELD – The city is continuing with efforts it started last year to increase taxes for its fire territory.

According to officials, the funds are needed to help the Greenfield Fire Territory keep up with the growing population it is responsible for protecting.

Last year, the city increased the general fire tax rate for 2023 from $0.2317 per $100 of assessed valuation to what the state approved at $0.2750. The territory’s cumulative fire equipment tax rate is $0.0333, resulting in a total of $0.3083.

Earlier this month, Greenfield City Council unanimously passed an ordinance on first reading that petitions the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance for an increase in the general tax rate for the fire territory from $0.2750 per $100 of assessed valuation to $0.3467 and to increase the territory’s general maximum levy from over $4.7 million to nearly $6 million for 2024 and beyond.

The ordinance also notes that the cumulative fire equipment rate remains at $0.0333.

The fire territory consists of Center Township, which includes the city of Greenfield.

Officials are able to pursue the funds because of a state law passed last year that allows fire protection territories that experience population spurts to increase maximum property tax levies. Former Greenfield Fire Chief Brian Lott noted last year that Center Township’s population increased 16% over the past decade.

Horning

Lott’s successor, Jason Horning, agrees with the intent of the new law.

“The funds are needed to allow us to be able to keep up with the growth of the city,” Horning said. “In the past, the city didn’t have any tools at their disposal to be able to keep up with the growth. Their hands were really tied. And so when the state legislature put this law into effect, it allowed local governments to be able to have a tool to increase funds for public safety so that they can increase services to provide for the growth. I’m very thankful that our city council and our mayor are supporting that and they’re going after that because they understand the need for us to expand to be able to properly cover the citizens of Greenfield.”

Greenfield City Council President Dan Riley said the city has 8 cents to which it can raise the fire tax rate, and that the plan is to do 7 this year and 1 next year.

“We’re just phasing it in as we can,” Riley said. “The fire department runs a deficit every year and has to go into common funds from the city. We have to pay all our bills.”

While the ordinance petitions the Department of Local Government Finance for an increase to $0.3467, it may not end up being that high. Last year, Greenfield sought a 10-cent boost but only received approval for 7, noted Otto “Buzz” Krohn, executive partner with Westfield-based O. W. Krohn & Associates, LLP, which provides financial consulting services to the city.

“There are always changes in those advertised numbers to the actual DLGF-approved rates due to the fact that the final certified net assessed values don’t come out until later in the fall of each year,” Krohn said in an email. “Certified NAVs increased for the pay 2023 budget, thus the actual advertised tax rates decreased. … “It is highly likely that the pay 2024 fire territory tax rates will end up something different than what is being advertised right now for the same reasons stated above.”

City council’s next meeting is at 7 p.m. March 22 at City Hall, 10 S. State St., Greenfield.