Fire and Rescue Funding
The Board of Supervisors is committed to investing in public safety and the more than 20 volunteer fire and rescue agencies that protect every corner of Pittsylvania County. That is why annual funding for the volunteer agencies has gone up 76% in the past few years. In total, the Board of Supervisors budgeted just under $2 million for the volunteer agencies in FY 2022. Approximately $1,097,500 of that is for general operating costs, about $600,000 is for apparatus purchases, and approximately $300,000 is for insurance coverage (though that number also includes Public Safety vehicles).
While the total amount goes up, the way that money is being allocated between the stations is being changed. The Board of Supervisors recently approved the FY 2022 agency funding plan, which is intended to distribute taxpayer funds more fairly, during its June meetings.
The Fire and Rescue Commission had recommended approval of the specific FY 2022 funding plan to the Board of Supervisors. This plan outlines how much funding each agency receives and ensures that each agency is fairly compensated based on the number of calls where they are dispatched. This is a departure from the previous funding arrangement, which was largely based on prior funding.
"We know how much time and energy the volunteers at each of these departments spend to not only respond to calls, but to keep their stations running and raise funds. That's why we have worked with the Fire and Rescue Commission and our Public Safety Staff to make sure that each community agency receives a fair proportion of funding. The Board of Supervisors will continue to do everything in our power to increase the investments that we make in our volunteer stations." - Ron Scearce, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
Under this new funding structure, the highest-performing agencies receive the largest portion of the funding. Gretna, Blairs, and Ringgold, three of the three leading Pittsylvania County agencies and the three that received the most funding, didn't see any substantial increases or decreases. The agencies that are slated to get the fourth and fifth most funding, Mt. Hermon and Brosville, respectively, will see increases of $24,801 and $14,541 from the previous years. For both of these stations, the increase in funding simply reflects that they were being underfunded based the amount of calls they where they were dispatched.
Another agency that saw a significant increase in funding is Cascade Fire and Rescue. The agency's annual funding saw an increase of over $18,000, bringing the total to $48,000, and that is largely the result of the agency being a transport ems agency. Cascade Volunteer Fire and Rescue has also made significant strides in response rate over the past few years.
Gretna Fire and Rescue and Blairs Fire and Rescue agencies will each receive $92,500 from the Pittsylvania County general fund. Gretna paces the county in the number of ems calls its volunteers are dispatched to while Blairs leads in fire calls. In recent years both the Gretna Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squads were struggling to get enough volunteers to respond to calls, but a merger of the two departments several years ago has led to newfound success on both sides.
Apparatus Replacement Schedule
The Fire and Rescue Commission and Board of Supervisors are also in the final stages of approving an apparatus replacement schedule, which will guide when departments get county funding for vehicles. The Board of Supervisors recently passed a motion saying that all future purchases must be approved by the Fire and Rescue Commission and the replacement schedule, which is slated to be finalized soon.
Under this schedule,
"This Board of Supervisors is appreciative of the work that each of our volunteer departments are doing. That is why we are committed to not only increasing our contributions into our volunteer fire and rescue system, but also being strategic, calculated, and fair with those investments." - Vic Ingram, Tunstall District Supervisor