Southeast Bullitt Fire Department says it needs to raise taxes t - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Southeast Bullitt Fire Department says it needs to raise taxes to stay afloat

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BULLITT COUNTY, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Southeast Bullitt Fire Department wants to raise taxes, and Fire Chief Erik Butler says if it doesn't, the doors could close for good.

Butler says fire department costs have gone up, but taxes are at an all time low.

"If the tax rates stay the same, we're not going to get funded, possibly lay off guys," he said. "There's even a possibility that we'll have to close stations."

Two years ago, former Fire Chief Julius Hatfield resigned after a WDRB investigation over questionable finances, but there are still problems between two boards: the Fire Protection District, which collects the tax money, and the Fire Corporation, which provides fire service. 

Butler believes there has been a lack of trust between the two boards. He says his department was using surplus money to operate, and now there's only funds to last through June of 2018.

Butler says the District Board held the taxpayer money and was just ordered by a judge to turn it over to the department.

"We finally received money in January of this year," said Tom Leach, chair of the Fire Corporation Board. "Before that, we had not been paid by the board since July of 2014.

"Give us a little time. The money is there. The biggest hurt is that the fact that they cut the tax rate by half one year and the next year by 80 percent."

Leach added that the department lost out on about $1 million in tax money because of those tax cuts.

Butler says fire service for residents is better than before. There is now automatic mutual aid with Lebanon Junction and Shepherdsville Fire Departments. 

He says if the Southeast Bullitt Fire Department shuts down, homeowner's insurance rates would go up because it's based on things including how close fire departments are to your home. 

Both boards will have a special meeting on Saturday morning.

"The district board has fears the public is going to question pretty harshly if they have to raise tax rate up back to 10 cents," Leach said. "To provide the best fire protection we can, we need that tax rate to go up."

"I'd like for the contract to be resolved," said Butler, adding that if tax rates don't go up, "everything that me and my command staff and corporation board and my firefighters worked for, it would be for nothing."

Marty Brown, the Acting Chairperson of the Fire Protection District Board of Trustees issued this statement.  

"Saturday's special meeting is for us to conduct a work session with regard to a contract between the District and the Corporation. This is a follow up from a work session conducted in November where significant progress was made toward formalizing the relationship between the District and Corporation. Many details are yet to be finalized, most of which we will discuss Saturday morning. The budget committees of the District and Corporation have held one joint meeting during which we discussed the costs of providing fire protection and life safety service to people in the District, and the revenue limitations imposed on the District by Kentucky law. We are a long way from establishing a tax rate for fiscal 2018."

"Now we've reached a point where they feel comfortable enough with us to sit down and finally put an end to all this fighting and controversy," Leach said.

The special meeting between the two boards is at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Southeast Bullitt main firehouse. It's open to the public.

Related Stories:

Embattled Southeast Bullitt fire chief resigns from department

Edelen: Southeast Bullitt Fire "a mess" that needs to be straightened out

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