In a letter recently received by Canton City Manager Scott Wood, the city was given the same ISO rating — a measurement of how well a community is protected from fire — it received when it was last evaluated: 4 out of 10, with a score of 1 being the most well-protected.
Wood said during Thursday’s city council meeting, the city is very near qualifying for a 3 rating.
Opponents of the option of merging Canton’s fire department with Cherokee County’s have often cited Canton’s ISO rating as a reason to avoid a merger.
They argue Canton’s rating of 4 gives the city an advantage over the county and its split rating of 5-9, as lower ratings give home and business owners lower insurance rates.
Canton Councilman Bill Bryan has been one of the most vocal about the importance of the rating.
He said Friday he was pleased when he learned the city had kept its rating.
“It’s good news for everybody,” Bryan said, though he admitted that not all insurance providers are as concerned with ISO ratings as they are with things like credit.
“I know there’s gonna be those that argue that it’s meaningless,” he said. “And to an extent there’s different cases where it would be, but there’s a lot of cases where it’s important.”
Even in the cases where ISO doesn’t affect rates, Bryan said the rating could be seen as “marketing” for the city.
“It shows this is a good place to be,” he said. “There’s some intangible benefits.”
Paul Stephens, a Canton-based Allstate agent, agreed with Bryan’s suggestions that ISO can be important, but said there are a lot factors driving insurance rates, and those factors vary from provider to provider.
“If you’re talking the difference between a 1 and a 10, it’s just a monster difference,” Stephens said for the companies that do consider to ISO ratings. “The difference between a 4 and a 5 is going to make a difference, but it doesn’t throw things into a tailspin.”
Stephens said the cost difference between a 4 rating and a 5 rating would vary from homeowner to homeowner and business to business, but typically the difference is less than 10 percent.
In real dollars, this could mean a $40 to $50 difference annually for a $175,000 home or $80 to $100 annually on a $375,000 home, he said.
Stephens said for businesses, the difference between 4 and 5 might not keep many business from coming to Canton, as some have suggested.
But for large, industrial business paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance annually, it could make a big difference, he said.