It has been one of the most asked about items on the local 2020 General Election ballots; it’s a sales tax proposition for the voters within Jasper County Emergency Services District 4. Beech Grove Fire Chief Jamie Gunter on Wednesday explained to KJAS News what it is and what it will do if approved by voters.
According to Gunter, if the proposition passes, the revenue from the sales tax increase will benefit five local fire departments, with the primary goal being to establish first responder programs where they do not currently exist, and to fund already existing first responder programs. Secondly, Gunter said it will assist with equipment and training.
Gunter emphasized that the proposition is for sales tax only, and will in no way increase anyone’s property taxes. Gunter also said that it will not increase sales tax at businesses within the city limits of Jasper, but rather only at businesses outside of the city limits that are within Emergency Services District 4, which is the communities immediately surrounding Jasper and served by the following fire departments:
~ Angelina River
~ Beech Grove
~ East End
Gunter said that inside Jasper, the sales tax is 8.25%, while sales tax in unincorporated Jasper County is 6.25%. Gunter said the proposition would raise that 6.25% rate up to 8.25%. Gunter said it would be about 15 cents for every $10.00 spent.
Interestingly, Gunter said the proposition would not benefit the Jasper Fire Department because of a decision made by city leaders a generation ago. Gunter said Emergency Services District 4 was created in 1983 by residents in Jasper County Precincts 1 and 2, and the original fire departments in the district were Jasper, Lake Rayburn, and Angelina River Volunteer Fire Departments.
However, Gunter said in 1985, when Wayne Dubose was the City Manager of Jasper, there was some sort of disagreement between the ESD and the city and the Jasper City Council at that time voted to remove itself from the ESD. Since that time the Jasper Fire Department has been funded by the city, but Gunter said the Jasper Fire Department is still considered to be a part of ESD 4 because the department responds to incidents up to 4 miles outside of the Jasper city limits, but they would not benefit from a sales tax if passed, and the development of a first responder program would not affect the city of Jasper.
Since its inception in 1983, ESD 4 has added East End and Tri-Community, and most recently the Beech Grove Volunteer Fire Department.