Spending Your Tax Dollars: Shelby County Fire Districts

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By Lisa King

What is the fire districts’ areas of control?


Shelby County is comprised of 10 individual fire districts designed to deliver fire protection for the roughly 42,000 residents and keep the coverage areas small enough to ensure fire services can arrive at homes expediently.The Shelby County Fire District is the county’s largest, covering 180 miles of the county’s 400 square miles. Fire districts from Bagdad, East 60 (Clay Village), Mount Eden, Simpsonville and Waddy cover their respective communities. Some of the fire districts on the fringes of the county cover considerably less and even include fire departments from other counties, such as Ballardsville, whose territory encroaches about 5 miles into the county at the Shelby/Oldham County line. The Pewee Valley Fire District’s area extends into Shelby from the Jefferson County line along Ash Avenue, down Aiken Road to Flat Rock, and it also covers Persimmon Ridge. Long Run Fire District covers part of Long Run Road, extending along an area about 5 miles into Western Shelby County. South Oldham Fire covers 3 miles of the county at the Shelby Oldham County line. Long Run, however, consists only of a board of trustees who contract with Eastwood Fire Department in Jefferson County to provide fire services in that area. Shelbyville Fire Department, which covers 7.6 miles within the city limits, functions differently, in that no tax rate is set for that area. Instead, itis a department of the Shelbyville city government. There are 14 total fire stations in the county, excluding Shelbyville’s fire stations.


How were these fire distrits created?

Shelby County’s fire districts, like those all throughout Kentucky, were created by state law in 1966. The statute, KRS 67.083, states that fire districts shall be established by their governing entities, be it either a fiscal court or city municipality. All of Shelby County’s volunteer departments were created around the time the statute went into effect. Shelbyville Fire, which was established in 1819, was the only fire department in existence in the county until then, and it served the entire county. In the late 1880s, it became a paid department. 


What is the tax rate for each district?

Most of Shelby’s 10 fire districts have a rate of 10 percent of property and motor vehicle taxes, with the exception of Bagdad and Mount Eden, with a rate of 7 percent, and South Oldham, with 9. Property owners are billed for taxes based on the district in which they live. For instance, not all Shelby County property owners pay for the Shelby County Fire Department. Tax rates are set by the taxing district boards, and state law prohibits them from setting rates higher than 10 percent. If a board wishes to change its rate, it first must hold a public hearing to let residents know of the change.Because of the taxing ability, fire districts rarely receive money from private individuals or insurance companies, except on rare occasions, when, for example, an out-of-state individual could be billed for having a fire car extinguished. Fire officials in Shelby say that though this has been done rarely in the past, it has not been done in recent years.


How much has that rate changed in the past 5 years?

The taxation rate has not changed for any of Shelby’s fire districts for the past 5 years.


What are the annual operating budgets of the fire districts and how much money is held in cash reserves?

The collective annual operating budgets for 2013 for 10 fire districts that serve Shelby County is $4,520,248 with the following breakdown:

Ballardsville:$605,250 (cash reserves: $100,000)

Bagdad:$123,075 (cash reserves: $0)

East 60:$93,200 (cash reserves: $20,000)

Long Run:$30,886 (cash reserves: $0)

Mount Eden:$101,200 (cash reserves: $85,000)

Pewee Valley:$458,481 (cash reserves:$650,000)

Shelby County:$959,957 (cash reserves: $67,000)

Simpsonville: $772,449 (cash reserves: $300,000)

South Oldham: $1,300,000 (cash reserves: $0)

Waddy:$75,750 (cash reserves: $66,000)


What have been the biggest expenditures in the past 5 years?

The biggest expenditures for most of Shelby’s fire districts are equipment-related, and departments carry loans to pay for expensive and evolving equipment. Simpsonville purchased a $298,500 fire truck in 2010, and in 2013, a command vehicle for $31,000 and a platform ladder truck for $100,000. The Bagdad Fire Department still owes $175,000 on four fire trucks, and the Waddy Fire District is still paying on a new pumper truck purchased in 2010, and the Mount Eden Fire District just spent $72,000 on air packs for firefighters two weeks ago, expenditure they have to incur every 15 years. Ballardsville is preparing to build a new $1 million fire station, for which it has been saving up for 10 years, and South Oldham has purchased a $275,000 pumper truck. Long Run had no expenditures, Pewee Valley listed miscellaneous equipment purchases, and East 60 purchased a $300,000 fire engine in 2011. Although Emergency Medical Technicians routinely accompany fire departments on their responses to calls, they are not part of the expenses of the fire districts – although personnel does cross over. EMTs who are also employed by or who are volunteers with a fire district act only in a fire department capacity when they are on a fire run.


How many full-time employees do these fire districts have and how much area do they cover?


Ballardsville: 50 volunteers; 1 full-time employee; pays volunteers $10 per run; covers 48 square miles.

Bagdad:31 firefighters; 0 full-time employees; pays volunteers $6 per run; covers 68 square miles.

East 60: 18 firefighters; 0 full-time employees; no pay per run.

Long Run: No physical fire station, contracts with Eastwood Fire to provide coverage for 5 square miles.

Mount Eden: 23 firefighters; 0 full-time employees; pays volunteers $9.50 per run; covers 70 square miles.

Pewee Valley: 40 firefighters, 0 full-time employees; pays volunteers varied amounts on a point system; covers 15 square miles.

Shelby County: 55 firefighters; 2 full-time employees; pays volunteers $8 per run; covers 180 square miles.

Simpsonville: 35 firefighters; 3 full-time employees; pays volunteers $10 per run; covers 92 square miles.

South Oldham: 50 firefighters; combination paid and volunteer department with 11 full-time employees and 30 volunteers; pays volunteers $12.50 per run; covers 25 square miles, 3 in Shelby County.

Waddy: 19 firefighters, 0 full-time employees; no pay per run; covers 50 square miles.


How are fire districts’ boards determined?

Fire districts are the only special districts whose members partially are elected and appointed. Three board members are appointed by the county judge-executive of the county in which the district originated. The county judge-executive may appoint anyone who lives in the district.Two are elected by property owners in the fire district and two are firefighter representatives appointed by the district’s board. Leadership positions are determined by election within the board. Election times are also mandated by state law (see KRS424.120). These elections are not held in conjunction with other elections. The first election is held when the district is formed. Firefighter members serve 3-year terms, property owner members serve 4-year terms. Appointed members serve 1-, 2-, and 3-year terms, as determined by state statue. At the end of their terms, another election is held for elected members, and new appointments are made at the conclusion of appointed terms.


How many total board members are there, and who leads each board?

Each fire district has seven members. Board chairs for Shelby’s 10 districts are:

Ballardsville: Dave Manley

Bagdad: Rick Floyd

East 60: Dale Gilbert

Long Run: Larry Siers

Mount Eden: Bob Jones

Pewee Valley: Joe Burkhart

Shelby County: Lloyd Eades

Simpsonville:  Dan Ison

South Oldham:  Dennis Deibel

Waddy: Ralph Carey


Are board members compensated? If so, how much, and how has that changed  during the past 10 years?

Most of Shelby’s fire district board members are not compensated. Long Run and Mount Eden pay $25 a month. This has not changed during the past 5 years. Board members may choose not to receive compensation even if they are eligible.


When and where do the boards meet? Are these meetings open to the public?

Fire district boards meet monthly at their main fire stations, and the meetings are open to the public. Meeting times are:

Ballardsville:Every 4th Thursday at 4604 S. Highway 53, Crestwood; www.ballardsville.com;

Bagdad:Every 2nd Tuesday at 4771 Bagdad Road; www.bagdadkyfire.com;

East 60:Every 2nd Thursday at 9221 Frankfort Road; no Web site

Long Run: Every3rd Thursday at 16010 Shelbyville Road; no Web site

Mount Eden:Every 1st Monday at 260 Van Buren Road; no Web site

Pewee Valley:Every 2nd Wednesday at 8607 Foley Ave.; www.peweevalleyfire.org;  

Shelby County:Every 1st Monday at 200 Alpine Drive; www.shelbycofire.com

Simpsonville:Every 2nd Tuesday at 121 Citizens Blvd.; www.simpfire.org

South Oldham:Every 4th Monday at 6310 Old La Grange Road; www.southoldhamfire.com;

Waddy:Every 2nd Tuesday at 135 Chester Dare Road; No Web site


When are agendas for meetings posted?

Shelby’s fire district boards have agendas posted in their main fire stations, and those who have Web sites have them posted there as well, although Pewee Valley is in the process of rebuilding its Web site. Its agendas are not available online.


Who has oversight of the taxing district and who reviews the budget?

The fire districts submit budgets to the Shelby County Fiscal Court. Magistrates review the budget to make sure it is balanced, but fire districts are not accountable to the fiscal court otherwise.