The mayor of Canton on Thursday vetoed the creation of a new fire district.
On July 19, city council members approved the measure to create the new district.
The city has grown from 7,500 to 23,000, but has just two fire stations.
The district would have gotten rid of a property tax exemption for senior citizens. Mayor Gene Hobgood said the exemption is what attracts seniors to live in Canton and getting rid of that would send a bad message.
"The ordinance sends the message to our seniors and disabled persons that the city does not understand or appreciate the value that these individuals provide to the city," Hobgood said.
The proposal includes a net tax increase of about .25 mills inside the fire district.
Canton Fire Chief Dean Floyd said the tax increase would have given the department a much needed boost in manpower.
"We are short staffed. We run on about 3,000 calls a year," Floyd said. "It works our guys real hard, it is dangerous for them and it is overworking them."
Floyd said the revenue generating from removing the property tax exemption would allow them to build at least one more fire station in north Canton.
"Getting the personnel and the additional stations, whether it is through the fire tax or however we do it, I think that is just a top priority for this community," Floyd said. "We run a lot of medical calls, we have EMTs and paramedics on staff. Our shortfall right now is the fire-fighting capabilities, having fire-suppression personnel. All of our people are crossed trained as EMTs and medics, it's just getting enough people on the scene to safely attack and control a fire."
Hobgood said fire safety is a top priority, but the city is going to have to find other ways to fund their needs, without hurting Canton's senior citizens.
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