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Jessamine Co. debates future of fire protection tax

NICHOLASVILLE — The possibility of abolishing extra fire protection through repeal of a tax paid only by residents of northwestern Jessamine County drew support and criticism but no clear consensus on Monday night.

"I don't want any more or any less than anyone else in Jessamine County, and I want this tax abolished," said Mark Nichols.

But Carole Herman cautioned that even if the tax is abolished, north Jessamine residents would still have to pay for any remaining debt incurred through the North Jessamine Subdistrict, including the debt on the Bellerive fire station off U.S. 68.

"It's not black and white," Herman said.

About 200 people attended a 90-minute meeting at Southland Christian Church to discuss the future of the subtax.

In 1995, residents successfully petitioned Jessamine Fiscal Court to create the North Jessamine Subdistrict of the county fire district. Residents in Windhaven, Equestrian Estates, Clays Mill Crossing and other northwestern Jessamine subdivisions pay 4.8 cents per $100 of real property in addition to the 5 cents per $100 of real property levied on all Jessamine taxpayers for fire protection.

State law says the extra revenue should be spent "solely on improving fire protection facilities and services in the subdistrict," and should not be used on facilities or services share by the entire county.

But the Jessamine County Fire District did not comply with state law in its handling of subdistrict tax money, according to a recent review conducted by the state auditor's office. Some money was used to pay for trucks used by all the county.

"The main thing we want is accountability," Herman said.

Ron Eldridge, acting chairman of the Jessamine County Fire District's board of trustees, said he wants to meet with the auditor's office and find out how to better comply with the law. Eldridge said the board will discuss the issue again.

Some residents took offense to a Dec. 9 letter sent on fire district letterhead that indicated "other fire protection services presently provided to the subtax district may also be diminished" if the tax was dissolved.

But Jessamine volunteer firefighter Chris Campbell was applauded when he vowed that subdistrict residents will receive fire protection, tax or no tax.

Said Campbell: "I promise you, as a fireman, I will provide the most professional fire service that can be provided in the state of Kentucky, so help me God."

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