Some Louisiana fire departments among agencies temporarily not tax exempt

Some Louisiana fire departments among agencies temporarily not tax exempt

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Starting Friday, some fire departments in Louisiana will have to pay taxes on equipment they purchase.

During the special session, legislators temporarily stopped tax exemptions for many agencies as a way to rescue the state's finances.

The reality is fire departments will now have to spend more money for the equipment they need which could mean tough choices about what is necessary to keep people safe.

It is part of the first wave of legislative action to address back-to-back years of budget shortfalls and the effects of eliminating those tax exemptions for some agencies are starting to surface.

Eldon LeDoux, spokesperson for the St. George Fire Protection District, said the effects will be felt immediately.

"If the tax started getting collected today I guess the impact starts today," LeDoux said.

According to LeDoux, every piece of equipment the department purchases will now be slapped with a 5-percent tax.

"That's money that will have to be found . It'll have to be spent in an area other than what we had perhaps hoped to," he said. "We'll adjust our budget accordingly and it may mean some things that we would like to have or like to do may get pushed down the road a little bit."

As they begin the search for additional revenue, one place he hopes they won't have to look is at their staff. The department currently employees around 170 people.

"Salaries and benefits and those things really are among the last things that we would hope to look at, but I really don't know the specifics of what we're going to have to do," LeDoux said.

Five percent may not seem like much, but the price adds up. For example, if the department needs a new fire truck the cost is estimated at $1 million. After the 5-percent tax is added, the price is increased by an extra $50,000.

"When the tax is applied to that then there may be some other things that we won't be able to afford and won't be able to buy," LeDoux added.

While tough choices are ahead, he is confident the department won't let a price tag get in the way of public safety.

"Our fire chief and board are not going to allow this to compromise the level of service that we provide to the community," LeDoux said. "We have to
start living with it today and we live within our means. We have a history of doing that."

Curt Monte, spokesman for the Baton Rouge Fire Department, said they don't believe this tax will affect them because they are a municipal department.

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