CENTRAL POLK COUNTY, Mo. – To get a tax levy increase passed on the August ballot next week, Central Polk County firefighters have been going door-to-door to talk to voters.

“Our goals are to upgrade equipment, upgrade some stations with we need some stations strategically placed to be able to run the call and protect our community,” Battalion Chief Tom Morris said. “Then our final goal would be to hire some full-time staff.”

The district has asked for a tax increase twice before.

“It [was] tied once, which meant it failed,” Morris said. “Then it failed the other time. So this would be the first tax increase in ten years. I feel like it was a lot of misinformation out there [which is why it didn’t pass].”

Central Polk Fire is asking for a 30-cent tax levy increase which would apply to the FIRECRP tax. Central Polk first became a protection district in 2013, and now covers 178 square miles of Polk County.

“Currently our district runs about 600 calls a year,” Morris said. “With an all-volunteer staff trying to get people during the day, during our day shifts when most everybody’s working. It is a struggle for them to be able to take off work, to be able to run these calls.”

If passed, Morris said the protection district would be able to have four full-time staff members.

“Anytime you have a staff [at the] station, you cut out seven or eights minutes for a person to get out of bed, get to the station and get rolling,” Morris said.

The money from the tax levy would also allow the district to upgrade equipment, like fire trucks.

“We’ve got about four or five of these trucks, early eighties vintage trucks,” Morris said. “The oldest is 42 years old. According to NFPA, which is a governing guideline for fire districts, it should have been retired 22 years ago. When maintenance needs to occur for it, the parts are getting hard to find for it.”

The district’s newest truck is 17 years old. Morris said it’s a replacement for a truck that was totaled in December 2022, when firefighter Edward Lamke responding to a fire and the truck rolled over.

“A lot of the challenges are the equipment is expensive,” former firefighter and state trooper Nick Visione said. “There’s no getting around it because it’s specialty equipment. It’s not the kind of stuff you can go down to the hardware store and replace.”

Visione said he is for the tax levy increase.

“These guys are volunteers,” Visione said. “They’re working for free. Why not give them the best equipment that they can have?”

But one woman said she is not for the tax because she does not want to give more money to the county that she does not believe will be used efficiently. If approved, the tax levy would only go towards the fire district, not the county government.

“When you talk about $0.30 on 100, that’s not on real value, that’s on assessed value,” Morris said. “In Polk County, on residential, it’s somewhere around a third of real value as assessed value. So you’re paying a lot less for taxes.”

Those with questions about the tax levy still have one last chance to get answers at Station 2 off Highway 83 on August 6 from 1-8 p.m.