Check ‘yes’ and protect your home |

Check ‘yes’ and protect your home

Here it is, one of the most volatile wildfire summers in memory – with threats of high winds this weekend raising red flags, and blazes on Friday destroying homes from Vacaville to Calaveras County – and there still are property owners questioning the need to vote “yes” on future funding for our county’s largest fire district.

Ballots were sent out on Friday by the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District asking for approval of a $1.3 million annual assessment that will pay nearly half of the district’s $3 million budget. (Much of the rest comes from property taxes.) The ballots are due back on Oct. 21.

The reasons for passing the assessment far outweigh the objections:

• The current assessment expires in fiscal 2006-2007, and will take with it $345,000 that the district can’t afford to lose.

• Since the last assessment was approved in 1996, the number of residents in the district’s 150 square miles has risen from 25,000 to more than 34,000, and the number of emergency calls have gone up 75 percent to more than 3,300 a year.

• At the same time, the district’s paid firefighters have remained at the same level while costs such as workers’ comp, insurance, fuel, and training have gone through the roof.

A similar special tax assessment failed in 2002, not only because voters were being penny wise and pound foolish, but because the district admits it didn’t do enough to emphasize the cost of voting “no.” Property owners should not kid themselves that if the district has to lay off firefighters and close fire stations, fire insurance premiums won’t go sky high – even if they could find a company to write a policy at all.

On the other hand, passage of the assessment will do away with the jumble of different assessments and taxes that resulted from earlier consolidations, allow the staffing of fire stations at Alta Sierra and Banner Mountain, and provide needed replacements of engines and equipment.

Depending upon the property, the new assessments will range from $2.23 a month for unimproved property to $11.13 for a home with a second unit. The annual rate for commercial properties with sprinklers will start at $89 and go to $667 for a 20,000-square-feet business.

When you look out the window and realize that a spark and a strong wind can destroy a lifetime of work or memories in minutes, the decision on Nevada County Consolidated’s ballot seems clear.

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