CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Voters in Kanawha County will decide Tuesday whether to continue a safety levy in the county which has been in place since the early 1970s. Over the years, the levy has come to be a huge revenue sources for every police, fire, and ambulance agency in the county as well as a major part o the operating budget of the Kanawha Regional Transit Authority.
Volunteer fire departments in Kanawha County get around $350,000 annually in allocations from the levy funds. The money is used to make everybody living or working in Kanawha County safer.
“It’s not just for your community, but the community as a whole,” said County Deputy Emergency Manager C.W. Sigman. “We’re talking about the water crisis and every volunteer fire department helped out in that response, some helped each other, and that money goes to support that.”
The money is largely allocated for equipment purchases in the county. The levy offers a partial payment when a fire department wants to buy a new fire truck. The county won’t pay for the entire cost, but will add to money raised by the fire department from the safety levy. The bigger payments are on necessary equipment which can be pricey for a volunteer outfit.
“Stuff like turnout gear and breathing apparatus,” said Sigman. “Different types of safety gear are always high priority items.”
The levy raises no new taxes, but maintains what county residents have been paying in excess funds for many years. Sigman said it would be a hardship for the volunteer companies to lose the money and jeopardize their safety in answering calls.
“They would have to scale back significantly in some departments,” said Sigman.
In order for the levy to pass—60 percent of the votes have to be in favor of renewal.