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Bluffton first responders ask for support to maintain service

CORRECTION: The second paragraph has been corrected to more accurately reflect statements presented by the Village administration.

By Andy Chappell-Dick

At the November 27 Village Council meeting, an ordinance was introduced that would ask Bluffton voters for a 20-year half-percent increase in the Village income tax rate to specifically fund safety services.

According to Village Administrator Jesse Blackburn, the ordinance came out of meetings of the Mayor’s Cabinet which includes Mayor Richard Johnson along with the Village Administrator, Assistant Administrator, Fiscal Officer, EMS Chief, Fire Chief, Police Chief and Police Lieutenant. Projections by Fiscal Officer Kevin Nickel show that a funding change on this scale is necessary to maintain the services and equipment that Bluffton residents have access to now, including a future transition to full-time EMS.

Councilors voted unanimously to table the ordinance to allow the Finance Committee to study the numbers, consider options, and see how future budgets would be affected. Several members felt strongly that if the tax issue goes to voters, it should not appear until the November general election to give it maximum exposure and community discussion.

Bluffton's three Safety Services, including the Police Department, Fire Department, and Emergency Medical Service, have provided the town with essential coverage for decades. For some time, all three chiefs have reported to Council that their costs to maintain current levels of service are rising faster than inflation, particularly when it comes to vehicles and equipment. In addition, the two volunteer departments, Fire and EMS, are finding that as present crews are aging, it is getting harder and harder to bring in new volunteers willing to meet ongoing training requirements and expectations for turnout. 

Currently, in December 2023, Bluffton levies a one and a quarter percent tax on all income earned in the village. Of this, 1% is permanent and funds general operations.  The 1/4% is earmarked for water and sewer infrastructure improvements, and will be up for renewal in a few years.

Village of Bluffton tax ordinance information is available at