August 2, 2017
North-West Fire Protection District
Proposed Property Tax Increase
November 7, 2017 Coordinated Mail Ballot Election
Summary: The North-West Fire Protection District (“Fire District”) is a combination fire department with both paid and volunteer firefighters. The Fire District protects 289 square miles of land, including the communities of Fairplay and Alma. The Fire District provides fire suppression, fire prevention and public education, rescue, extrication, hazardous materials, and emergency medical services (“Emergency Services”) to the citizens and property within its jurisdiction. During the summer months, the Fire District sees a population increase from approximately 3,940 to 10,000 individuals during peak visitor weekends due to visitors and second home residents.
The Fire District last asked its citizens for a property tax increase in 2004. At the November 7, 2017 coordinated election, the District will ask its citizens to approve an increase of 2.553 mills to enable the Fire District to continue providing effective Emergency Services
Benefits: Over the past 10 years, the service demands on the Fire District have increased substantially. For example, calls for service have increased by 32% since 2007, and operating costs have increased by 18%. However, the Fire District’s revenue has not increased proportionately. Since 2012, the Fire District’s tax revenue has decreased by 12%, and, beginning in 2018, the assessed valuation of all property within the Fire District’s jurisdiction is expected to decrease by $5,700,000 due to a reduction in the state-wide residential assessment rate. This will further depress the Fire District’s property tax revenue. As a result, unless the Fire District’s mill levy is increased, the Fire District expects to begin using money from its Reserve Fund to balance its annual budget and continue providing effective Emergency Services. Without a property tax increase, the Fire District projects it will deplete its Reserve Fund in fiscal year 2021.
The property tax increase will provide stable and predictable revenue for the Fire District to meet the community’s increasing demands for Emergency Services. It is expected to allow the Fire District balance its annual budget without depleting its Reserve Fund, and to maintain a Capital Reserve fund to meet its future Emergency Service capital needs.
In addition, the increased tax revenue will be used to meet the Fire District’s ongoing administrative and operational needs to better serve the community, including:
- Equipping firefighters with safe and effective personal protective equipment. Fire industry standards establish how long firefighters can use personal protective equipment before it must be replaced. The cost of replacing personal protective equipment is on-going, significant, and steadily increasing.
- Replacing aging fire apparatus. Fire apparatus has an approximate life-span of 10 years. In today’s dollars an average fire engine costs approximately $500,000. Many of the Fire District’s frontline fire apparatus are approaching that 10 year mark and will need to be replaced in the immediate future.
- Restoring the District’s training budget, which has been reduced by 60%, and maintaining stringent training standards for all firefighters. Each Fire District firefighter is required to maintain a Firefighter II certification. This certification ensures that each firefighter is prepared to provide high quality Emergency Services to the community.
Drawbacks: The property tax increase will increase the amount of taxes the Fire District assesses against taxable property within its boundaries. For voters who support less and smaller government, the Fire District’s increase in tax revenues may be contrary to this objective
Based upon the Fire District’s current assessed valuation, a property tax increase of 2.553 mills would result in the following projected increases in property taxes to homeowners:
$200,000 Residence = $2.79 per month
$300,000 Residence = $4.19 per month
$400,000 Residence = $5.58 per month