The North Carolina Legislature recently passed special legislation for Brunswick County Fire Fees. Brunswick County asked for this legislation after a study, conducted by an industry consultant, included recommendations for certain changes to help local fire departments better serve residents despite changes in economic climates, building development, and decreasing grant funding.
There were three substantial changes in the 2017 legislation:
The potential upper limit for fire fees charged to each property owner doubled. Brunswick County is not doubling fire fees, but this change allows the County to make future adjustments, if needed, without having to request permission from the State.
The County now has the ability to charge 75% of the fire fee amount to properties that are more than six miles from a fire station. This change reflects the fact that fire departments will respond to fire whether it is in the district or not, as well as the increasing response by fire departments to vehicular accidents.
The County now has the ability to use customary methods to collect delinquent fire fees.
Fire fees for improved properties (with buildings) are calculated based on the heated square footage of a building. Fire fees for vacant land are calculated based on the acreage of the property. Fees are not based on the tax value.
Brunswick County requested the legislation to meet immediate funding needs. In the years since 1999, when fire fees were originally enacted in Brunswick County, many factors affecting fire departments have changed, including a reduction in the number of volunteers and an increase in the number of paid staff needed. Many departments currently have, or will soon have, capital needs, such as necessary building repairs or fire trucks that need to be replaced.