A closer look and listen: millage increase for old firefighters fund on ballot; Gary B. visits with former fire chief

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In the Nov. 6  general election, Batesville voters are being asked to help a group of retired firefighters by approving a small increase in the tax that funds their pensions.

The Batesville Firefighters Retirement Fund was created before the city joined the state-run retirement fund for policemen and firemen, Arkansas Local Police & Fire Retirement System, also known as LOPFI. The city pays into the LOPFI fund for its police and fire departments.

The older firefighters group is supported by a point 4-millage rate. The fund is facing insolvency because no one has paid into the fund since the city joined LOPFI.

In August, the city council approved an ordinance to place the question of increasing the millage from four-tenths of a mill to a full mill on the November election ballot.

The passage of Amendment 59 by voters in 1980 created a uniform assessment and tax structure statewide. Before Amendment 59, the firemen’s funding started at one mill and the City General was at 5 mills. The amendment lowered those rates. The City General has been increased gradually since 1992 and is now at 5 mills again.

Under the amendment, the firemen’s pension millage was reduced from one mill to four-tenths of a mill. It currently remains at that level. Members of the pension fund have asked the city council to increase the millage to a full mill by its own action. However, Mayor Rick Elumbaugh has said that attorneys with the Arkansas Municipal League have advised against that, saying that such action would leave the city open to a lawsuit by any taxpayer in the city.

What happens if the millage increase fails Nov. 6? That’s what the retired firefighters and their widows fear.

The mayor and council have encouraged the group’s members to campaign for the issue by calling friends and acquaintances to get out and vote for it.

LISTEN: White River Now’s Gary B. recently sat down to talk about the old Batesville firefighters fund with former Batesville Fire Chief Bobby Davis for this week’s episode of The Official Word on Arkansas 103.3 KWOZ and 93 KZLE. The Official Word is sponsored by First Community Bank.

Reporting by Bob Qualls

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Get up-to-date local and regional news along with the latest weather every weekday morning by listening to Gary B. and Ozark Newsline on Arkansas 103.3 KWOZ93 KZLE, and other W.R.D. Entertainment radio stations. If you have a news tip or event to promote, email White River Now at news@whiterivernow.com.

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