PORTLAND, Tenn. - Residents of Portland could soon see a property tax hike to help pay for new hires in both the fire and police departments.
The 20-cent increase would mean a home valued at about $200,000 would see about $100 on their property taxes.
The fire department is staffed at unsafe levels, according to Portland Fire Chief Al West.
Right now, there are 12 firefighters for the entire city. So, if a fire happens at a single family home, a maximum of four or five firefighters would respond, plus maybe one volunteer.
West said the national recommendation is about 10-12 firefighters in such a case.
But even in a larger apartment fire, that number wouldn’t grow, it would still be just about six total firefighters.
Chief West said part of the problem is that the number of volunteer firefighters has dropped in recent years.
The tax increase would allow the fire department to double their numbers to 24 total firefighters. The increase would also add two police officer positions -- increasing that total staff to 26.
Portland’s mayor said this is just the first reading for the item on the city’s budget. The next reading for the tax increase is June 25.
The mayor also said he believes adding the extra firefighters will reduce the city’s insurance rate and reduce the burden on residents. It’s unclear how much that rate could be reduced.