Salem Fire Department election results - Tuesday August 30, 2016

The dues increase was defeated. Out of 5,551 members, 222 were "For" and 5,329 "Against" with 4,925 voting by proxy (not actually voting). 404 cast their vote "Against" for a total of 626 members who actually cast votes. The voting participation rate was 11.3%. If you are one of those 4,925 members who did not vote, you may think that you should not be defined as "against". If that is indeed what you think, then I respectfully disagree. By not voting, you allowed the majority of voters to decide for you. The majority voted no for you.

The Salem Fire District was asking for a $50 per house dues increase which would have doubled the current dues. In 1994 Salem fire district dues increased from $35 per year per house to $50. That $35 in 1994 is now worth $57 according to In real money, you are paying less for fire dues now than you were in 1994 prior to the rate increase. Do you remember what you paid for a gallon of milk in 1994, how much you paid for rent each month, or what your house was worth then compared to now?

It is true that the increasing number of houses in the district has resulted in increased revenue from fire department dues. It is also true that there is a housing boom in the Salem Community. However, most of those new houses are in subdivisions which are annexed into Bryant or Benton when they are complete. The Salem Fire District does not see any increased revenue from those housing developments.

Revenue from most taxes automatically increases with inflation, but fire department dues do not. They stay the same dollar amount even though inflation devalues that money each year. Fire Department dues only increase when people vote for an increase.

When the city or the school district says they need to increase taxes to keep up with inflation (the increased costs associated with the government printing funny money), they are not exactly being honest. If keeping up with inflation or an increasing population is the main reason given for a tax increase, I vote against it. Sales taxes are based on a percentage of what you spend. As prices increase, so does revenue from sales tax. Property taxes are based on the value of your property. As property assessments increase, so does revenue from property tax. As the population increases, so does tax revenue. Tax increases are not needed to maintain existing services because tax revenue is already increasing. The only valid reason to vote for a tax increase is to expand or add new services.

The Salem Fire Department needs a dues increase to improve service to the Salem Community. When you have a medical emergency or a wreck with injury, the fire department almost always shows up before the ambulance. Rescue and fire trucks have the equipment and firemen have the skills to help until the ambulance transports you to the hospital. If you are trapped in a wrecked vehicle, the fire department will get you out. The extra 5 minutes or more for a volunteer to get to the fire department and roll out the resucue truck may mean the difference between life and death. Is it worth an extra $50 a year to shorten response times?

I voted for the fire district dues increase because real revenue per house or business has decreased due to inflation and because the fire department would have used the increased revenue to improve their rescue and fire services.

The cities of Benton and Bryant are continually expanding into the county. In 2008 both cities attempted to annex large parts of the Salem Community into their cities, but county residents resisted and were able to convince city residents that such large annexations were not in their best interests. If the Salem Fire Department is unable to continue to provide the expected level of service, people are more likely to favor annexation. If your property is annexed into the city, your taxes will increase much more than $50 per year, and they will continue rising right along with inflation. Personally I will be happy to pay an extra $50 per year and perhaps delay what some people think is the inevitable annexation into the city. Even though doubling the amount of fire dues sounds extreme, maybe it is not so bad after all.

The Salem Fire District in Saline County, Arkansas borders the cities of Benton and Bryant. It includes Benton, Bryant, and Alexander addresses that are not in the city limits. Most of the Salem Community is in the Bryant School District, and part is in the Benton School District. If you see a $50 charge for the Salem Fire District on your property tax bill, this election affects you.

See the Salem Fire Department web page for more details about the requested dues increase.

Copyright 2016 by Charles Young
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