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The Smith County Emergency Services District No. 2 office in Whitehouse on Monday, July 9, 2018 (Tyler Morning Telegraph/File)

The government entity providing fire services for 11 departments in Smith County is seeking to keep its tax rate level and increase funding through a sales tax.

Smith County Emergency Services District No. 2 has proposed to keep its tax rate at 8.4648 cents per $100 in property value.

If approved by the district’s Board of Commissioners, the rate would be applied to 2019 property values, which increased 3.7% over 2018.

The tax bill on an average home would increase from $136.69 to $141.76, according to a notice posted Monday. If it wanted to avoid the increase, the district would need to adopt a rate of 8.1622 cents.

Separately, the district is seeking to increase the cumulative sales tax rate in the district to 8.25%. The rate is currently 6.75% in most parts of the district.

The district announced the proposed sales tax increase, which would require voter approval Nov. 3, in a statement on its Facebook page after the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously July 29 to propose it.

J.D. Smith, a spokesman for the district, said Friday the idea of the sales tax increase is to get more help for volunteer firefighters who are responding to an increasing number of emergency calls.

“Part of the point of doing it is to try to get us some paid firefighters who are on 24 hours a day to help our volunteers,” Smith said. “Our volunteers are doing a great job, but the call volume is getting higher, and they’re spending more time sometimes running calls than even with their families.”

Smith said maintaining the existing property tax rate allows residents to pay a similar amount, so that there is not a significant increase on property taxes at the same time that the Smith County government is seeking to raise its property tax rate.

Additionally, he said part of the sales tax would be picked up by people who don’t live in the area because it is paid when people purchase goods in the district.

“We cover a significant number of accidents on I-20,” Smith said. “When people stop up there, they would pay that sales tax. Therefore, our citizens wouldn’t be having to burden the payment for the services for those people. It captures more of everyone equally to do the sales tax.”

The district, started in 2007, is the primary funding source for volunteer fire departments in Arp, Bullard, Chapel Hill, Dixie, Flint, Gresham, Jackson Heights, Noonday, Red Springs, Troup, Winona and Whitehouse.

The district said it is planning town hall meetings on the sales tax issue in the coming months.

TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield

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