Matthew Renda

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April 18, 2012
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Two ballot measures to featured in June election

Taking a page from the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District - which recently saw a similar proposal pass - officials at the Higgins Fire District will ask their voters to approve a fire tax hike that could increase property taxes by $100 per year.

Measure B, as it's called, will appear on the June 5 primary ballot for those living within the fire district boundaries.

Higgins Fire Chief Jerry Good said the fee hike is needed to supplement what he characterized as major financial deficiencies that will compromise the district's operations unless addressed.

If the Measure B fails, Good said it will result in "layoffs and the closure of one of the three stations," adding the closures and reductions could double average response times.

The fire chief said the district will request a special tax for the first time since 1980 due to a dramatic decline in assessed property values and cuts to others sources of public funding.

"We are facing a significantly reduced budget and that is even with employee concessions," Good said.

Employees have voluntarily taken an average of 28 percent in compensation reductions over the last three years - including salaries, retirement, holidays, vacations and training, according to a fact sheet distributed by the district.

The district will essentially repeal the $25 special tax passed in 1980, and ask voters to approve a $125 assessment, meaning the average resident will notice a $100 increase on their bill.

Good said along with reductions, the district is grappling with increased costs in the areas of workers' compensation, payroll taxes and fuel costs.

"We've basically used up our reserves to fund the current fiscal year," he said.

The fire district board opted to have the measure placed on the June primary ballot to save the costs and protect the integrity of the election, Good said.

The district has a $1.4 million budget and Good said if the measure fails they would need to make $400,000 in cuts.

Last month voters within the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District approved the special tax by 68.5 percent margin, which will add an estimated $52 annually to the average property tax bill.

Measure B relates only to registered voters within the Higgins Fire District, which consists of about 90 square miles in south county, extending to Camp Far West on the west, Bear River on the east, and the Nevada County line on the south.

Measure C

The other measure on the June 5 ballot, Measure C, relates to an $80 per parcel assessment to properties within the Mystic Mine Community Service District.

In papers filed with the Nevada County Elections Office, board president Robert "Jake" Jacobsen said the assessment is necessary for road maintenance and improvement projects.

"As the County of Nevada has no responsibility for road work within the district, failure to pass this ballot measure will mean very limited road work in the (coming) years," Jacobsen wrote in his argument in favor of the measure.

The district is located off of Bitney Springs Road, between Nevada City and Grass Valley.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call (530) 477-4239.

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The Union Updated Apr 19, 2012 04:53PM Published Apr 18, 2012 03:27PM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.