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County says ‘no’ to redistributing fire tax

At about 8 o’clock last night, it became apparent that Local Amendment No. 1, the proposed redistribution of tax money among Chilton County’s rural volunteer fire departments, had been defeated.

A majority of voters in rural Chilton County opposed the amendment, which received 6,082 “No” votes to 3,368 “Yes” votes not counting absentees. Even in the East Chilton precinct, the central point of efforts by fire officials to push the amendment along, it was defeated 277-217.

“A big thing was the wording on the ballot,” Dan Wright, Chilton Fire/EMS Association president, said. “We did what we could to get the word out and encourage the public to support us. I would hope people voted for the right reason, and not for the wrong reason.”

Now, it’s back to the drawing board for fire officials who say they are in the middle of a funding crisis. And, unless a special election is called, nothing can change for at least two years.

If passed, the amendment would have redistributed the current amount of tax money allocated to Chilton’s rural fire departments. Its purpose was to reduce funding allocated to substations in order to free up more funding for primary fire stations.

The amendment was not a tax increase or a new tax.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle,” Wright said. “I’m not looking forward to the next two years without this passing.”

Wright said the amendment’s defeat amounts to a funding cut as each new substation is opened.

“As when funding is cut to any agency, services provided will more than likely be affected,” he said.