The Durant firefighters union is opposing a proposed countywide sales tax that would provide funding to all area fire departments, including Durant.
Dustin Rudolf, president of Durant Firefighters Local 3061, cited several reasons for opposing it.
“We just feel like the City of Durant is already paying for our services, and by adding this tax, it’s going to cause them to pay more,” Rudolf said. “Even coverage areas outside of our city limits but in our fire district are already getting our services. We feel the way the economy is now, it is not a good time to be adding taxes.”
Tuesday, voters will be voting on a county question for a permanent one-quarter cent sales tax to provide funding for fire departments, the Bryan County Communications Center and the Bryan County Fire Chiefs Association. Early voting started today at the Bryan County Election Board Office.
The tax, if approved, would be used for the purpose of fire protection, prevention, communications, training-related expenses (not to include salaries), and Fire/EMS/Rescue operations. This would include maintenance/construction of buildings, purchase and maintenance of equipment, vehicles and supplies. The funds would be distributed equally among all fire departments located in Bryan County.
In the case of Durant, the 9.125 percent sales tax rate would increase to 9.375.
The funds would be distributed among 16 Bryan County fire departments, with the remaining 10 percent split evenly between the Bryan County Communications Center and the fire chiefs association, which would become a county board.
Rudolf said that the firefighters union thinks the proposal could have been better written. Under the proposal, all departments will get an equal share, regardless of the sizes of the departments or the number of emergency runs they make each year. Rudolf says small departments could end up with better equipment than what Durant has.
“We agree that they all need funding, there is no doubt in our minds, but some of them don’t need as much as others,” Rudolf said.
Also, there are signs placed throughout Durant urging voters to support firefighters. According to Rudolf, the signs imply that Durant supports the tax, and he said the Durant firefighters union was not involved in proposing the tax.
“The signs make you believe that we’re behind it,” Rudolf said. “The people of Durant think we’re behind it. Everyone I have talked to has said that.”
Rudolf said Durant firefighters do not want to cause any hard feelings with the volunteer fire departments.
“We don’t want to slam the volunteers,” Rudolf said. “We respect them and they do a great job, but something needs to be done to let Durant citizens know what they are voting on.”