Do you value fire protection?
It has been nearly three weeks since the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District mailed information to the property owners it serves regarding the proposed special fire benefit assessment. In that three weeks, district staff and I have fielded dozens of phone calls, many with genuine concerns and questions. Some simply want to voice their anti-tax sentiment and some want to voice their support.
I sincerely want to thank all of you who took the time to ask your questions so you can make an informed decision. I will highlight some of our most frequently asked questions:
1. Is this new assessment in addition to the current fire assessment/tax? No, the current assessment or special fire tax (depending on where you live) will go away. The new assessment will be one rate paid equally by all.
2. Why not raise funds other ways? The district does not have the legal ability to impose a sales tax. That is a county, state, or federal function. One person suggested we sell redundant fire stations. We, in fact, are currently selling two stations that are no longer viable and one vacant parcel. It is a very slow process to get rezoned from public to private. That may fund some seasonal firefighters for one year. Then what? We are also active in what is akin to bake sales, ice cream socials, spaghetti feeds, and quilt sales. Let’s get real. The proceeds from these help augment our operations, but do you really want to rely on your fire protection from bake-sale funding?
3. How much are the firefighters paid? The seasonal firefighters that currently work out of Station 89 in Alta Sierra and Station 87 in Alta Oaks work 12-hour shifts for a maximum of $10 an hour without benefits. Our entry-level career firefighters make $26,000 annually with retirement and health benefits. The district’s desire is to hire our seasonal firefighters, making them career firefighters, which will help improve their standard of living and security. This in turn will help secure a permanent work force for your fire district.
4. Will this affect my insurance? Without a doubt. The outcome of this vote may have far-reaching effects on insurance coverage.
5. Why didn’t you put this on the Nov. 2 election ballot? Again, our funding choices are limited. And due to the restrictions provided by tax and/or assessment laws, we chose the assessment method. This will allow the property owner, who has a vested interest, the opportunity to vote for the level of fire protection he or she wants.
We are sending you a ballot so that you have the opportunity to tell us what level of service you want. Your vote will tell us whether or not …
• You want a viable fire department into the future, retaining our existing station staffing, adding 24-hour staffing at the fire station in Alta Sierra and at a fire station covering Banner Mountain, Red Dog Road, Cascade Shores, and Idaho-Maryland.
• You want a safer environment for your firefighters with the best tools we can provide them.
• You are concerned about replacing 25-year-old fire engines, maintaining our fire prevention and public education program, and continuing our successful fuels management program.
Finally, it will tell us whether or not you want a secured, long-term funding source for your continued fire protection.
I am your fire chief and have served you for nearly 25 years. I have made my recommendations. It is now up to you to make your decision.
Tim Fike is the chief of the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District.
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