Four Nevada County fire districts reap small tax windfall | TheUnion.com

Four Nevada County fire districts reap small tax windfall

The Penn Valley Fire Protection District figured it wasn’t getting tax revenue from some areas it covers.

Turns out, it was right. However, a fix to that problem isn’t providing the amount Penn Valley’s fire chief would like.

Fire officials brought the issue to the county in January. Some research revealed the problem stemmed from a 1986 annexation of certain properties, Assistant CEO Mali Dyck said.

The fire district had annexed some properties in the 1980s, but no negotiations occurred over what share of those properties’ taxes it should receive. That meant the fire districts never received their portion of the annexed properties’ taxes.

The county’s research led to the discovery of three other fire districts in the same position — Nevada County Consolidated, Higgins and Truckee.

A unanimous vote of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors last week tweaked the tax allocation. The four fire districts now will get a share of the annexed properties’ taxes — an estimated total of $1,633.48 in the first year.

The payments aren’t retroactive, Dyck said.

Inside the numbers

Penn Valley is expected to receive $225.92. Fire Chief Don Wagner said an outside company developed a formula calling for $42,000 in annual payments for his district because of the added properties, had negotiations taken place in 1986.

However, if the district were to try to recoup those taxes today, it would have to take that money from other districts. Wagner said that can’t happen.

His district currently receives around $400,000 annually in property taxes.

“When a new service is provided in a TRA (Tax Rate Area,) like fire, there is no automatic allocation of property tax to that district,” Dyck said in an email. “The district is responsible for working through (the Local Area Formation Commission) to negotiate a portion of the property tax revenue generated in that TRA. The other districts have no obligation to give up some of their revenue to make room for the new district to get some of the property tax pie.

“That didn’t happen for these fire districts at the time, in the 1980s,” Dyck added. “It’s unclear why that didn’t happen.”

Wagner said his district’s board didn’t realize in 1986 it needed to negotiate.

“The fire board at the time just thought it was going to happen,” he added.

Nevada County Consolidated Fire District is receiving most of the funds in the first year, an estimated $931.37.

Jeff Van Groningen, the fire district’s finance manager, said his district had almost $6.3 million in revenue from taxes and assessments in fiscal year 2018-19.

“The increase of $931 won’t be significant, but it’s nice that they found it for us,” he said. “I appreciate that the county went through the effort. It’s good to know they’re watching out for us.”

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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