Oklahoma Garfield County Fire Departments Supported By Sales Tax

Garfield County, Oklahoma passed a one-cent sales tax increase in 1996. One-tenth of that one-cent sales tax is split between twelve rural fire departments.

Before that revenue was slotted for the fire departments of Garfield County (in towns such as Kremlin, Hunter, Hillsdale-Carrier, Pond Creek and Breckinridge), fire teams didn’t have the resources they needed.

Rick Oller, Breckinridge fire chief says, “It used to be that when you’d go to the fire station before the tax, you didn’t know if the fire truck was going to start or not.” Now, the teams are proud to say they’ve been able to upgrade from their old World War II-era military and forestry-issued vehicles to more modern trucks—their oldest model is 1997, according to Rusty Carter, Hunter fire chief.

In addition to new vehicles and fire houses, firefighter training, emergency medical training and automobile extraction training are provided with the sales tax revenue. Each fire department receives roughly $6,000 each month from the tax. In 2011, the tax proceeds totaled $63,404 for each department. 2012 is tracking pretty close to that with $61,278 collected in the first 10 months of the fiscal year.

Garfield County Sheriff Bill Winchester says, “Safety and response time has improved dramatically.” And that became very important last August when two boys were caught in the floor auger of the Zaloudek Grain Co. elevator.  The call originally indicated just one boy caught in the auger, so Kremlin Fire Department sent one truck. Eventually, “…20 firefighters from Kremlin, Hunter, Hillsdale-Carrier, Pond Creek and Breckinridge pain-stakingly freed the teens—a task that took more than an hour.”

“We wouldn’t have had the resources to do what we did without the tax,” said Oller. The current sales tax expires at the end of the Fiscal Year 2014. At that time, it will need to be reinstated by a vote of the people or the income to support the fire departments will end.

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