No correlation just a coincidence—that’s what Chuck Wooten, County Manager says about the talks to levy a fire tax for the Glenville-Cashiers and Cullowhee area residents. This comes just after Macon County Commissioners discussed asking Jackson County to pay them $160,000 annually for emergency services they offer to home owners in the Highlands area.
The homes are located in Jackson County but without a substation in the area, it takes emergency services from Jackson County nearly 25 minutes to reach the homes in question. Macon County emergency services reaches those homes in about 5 minutes.
Glenville Cashiers and Cullowhee Fire Departments have consistently stated that they cannot continue to rely on the expectation of contributions to cover the majority of their budget through fundraisers and donations.
County dollars are distributed to the departments using a base rate plus additional monies for each substation, a total of $1.5 million. Closing the gaps in Cashiers and Cullowhee would require more taxes.
Due to Lower property values in Cullowhee, residents there would face higher tax than required in Cashiers-Glenville to meet the community fire department’s requirements.
In late fall the county was approached by Highlands Fire Department about providing additional support to offset a portion of the costs to operate a new sub-station that would service a number of Jackson County homes and offer them a substantial reduction in homeowners insurance since they would be in their 5 mile response district.
The county was later contacted by a group of residents in the Cullasaja Club who are residents of Jackson County asking for support to Highlands.
Macon County has now followed up with a similar request. For years elected officials in both Macon and Jackson counties have debated where the county line between Cashiers and Highlands falls. With homes in the area valued at millions of dollars, 332 properties are located in the area in question. Although the properties are currently considered to be in Jackson County, the homes receive services from Macon County such as EMS, police, fire, and solid waste. Macon County estimates Jackson receives about $1.2 million annually in property tax revenue from those homes and they are requesting 13% of that number which comes to $160,000 a year to provide those services.
In an email Wooten says as the county is considering Cashiers and Cullowhee, the county thought it would be appropriate to add the Highlands area as well. Wooten says Randy Dillard, fire chief at Cashiers, supports this concept since these home are more easily served by Macon since Cashiers does not have access to some of these properties without going into Macon County and circling back into Jackson County.
The fire tax was proposed previously but dropped when a majority of the departments did not support the tax. A timetable projects extra taxes levied as soon as July. Before that could happen, residents would be notified by mail about the plan and a public hearing held. Commissioners could choose to establish seven fire service areas but tax only the two in question now.