(a) The Legislature hereby declares that the fire departments and rescue squads that receive funds pursuant to this amendment are organizations which are public in nature, as they promote and protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the county.
(b) The County Commission of Covington County shall levy and collect a special property tax, in addition to all other taxes now or hereafter provided by law, of three mills on each one dollar's worth of taxable property as assessed for the state ad valorem taxation during the preceding year. The proceeds of the additional taxes levied by this amendment shall be used exclusively for fire, emergency medical, and rescue services.
(c) The Revenue Commissioner of Covington County shall assess the tax herein provided for, and shall collect the fire tax in the same manner and method that other ad valorem taxes are collected. The proceeds of the tax shall be paid into a special county fund. Within thirty days of payment into the special fund, the county commission shall allocate the funds among the eligible fire departments and rescue squads. The funds shall be divided equally among the eligible fire departments and rescue squads.
(d) An eligible fire department, for purposes of this amendment, means a fire department in Covington County that maintains an ISO-approved rating of at least Class 9, is certified under the Alabama Forestry Commission guidelines, and is a member in good standing of the Covington County Firefighters Association. An eligible rescue squad, for purposes of this amendment, means a rescue squad that is certified by the Alabama Association of Rescue Squads or Emergency Medical Services.
(e) Funds paid to eligible fire departments and rescue squads shall only be expended for fire protection and emergency medical and rescue services including training, supplies, and equipment. The funds may also be expended to purchase liability insurance to insure coverage of acts or omissions which are directly related to the functions of a fire department or rescue squad which are committed by a fire department or rescue squad or the personnel of a fire department or rescue squad. The funds may not be expended for food, drink, social activities or fund-raising activities. After receiving funds, the fire departments and rescue squads shall keep accurate records to verify that the funds were properly expended. By September 15 of each year, the fire departments and rescue squads shall file a financial statement with the Covington County Commission detailing the expenditure of all funds received from this amendment during the previous twelve months. The filing shall also account for all unspent funds and whether the unspent funds have been obligated. The Covington County Firefighters Association shall supply the accounting forms to each eligible fire department and rescue squad. No new fire departments shall be funded within Covington County without prior approval of the Covington County Firefighters Association and the Covington County Commission and without first being certified according to Alabama Forestry Commission guidelines. New departments shall attain an ISO Class 9 rating within two years of receiving fire tax funds to remain eligible. No new rescue squads shall be funded within Covington County without prior approval of the Covington County Commission.
(f) Upon dissolution or abandonment of any eligible fire department or rescue squad, any remaining funds derived from this amendment or any assets purchased with funds derived from this amendment shall, after all indebtedness has been satisfied, be transferred to the county commission. The funds and assets shall be reallocated by the county commission equally to the other fire departments and rescue squads. In the event there are no fire departments or rescue squads, the funds or assets shall be placed in the county general fund.
(g) The personnel of fire departments and rescue squads provided for in this amendment shall not be considered employees, servants or agents of the county and the members of the county commission and the employees of the county shall not be liable in either their official capacity or in a private capacity for the actions of the personnel of fire departments or rescue squads.
(h) Act No. 93-317, H. 825, 1993 Regular Session, is repealed.
(i) This amendment shall not become effective unless approved at a referendum by a majority of the qualified electors of Covington County voting on the proposition. The referendum shall be held at the same time as the election for the ratification of this amendment, as provided for in Section 2 of this act, and no further election shall be required.