Rick Bannan / email@example.com
One of Clark County’s most rural fire districts is seeking to raise its property tax levy as a way to hire more full-time staff in an effort to support a growing call volume.
Clark County Fire District 10 has a levy “lid lift” on the August primary election ballot. If approved by a majority of district voters, the lid lift would increase the levy from the current 82 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on properties to $1.35 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The district covers some of the northernmost parts of Clark County, including Amboy on the eastern side of its boundary.
The idea of the lid lift had been discussed by district officials for more than a year after the district experienced a significant jump in call volume from 2020 to 2021, Fire District 10 Assistant Chief Gordon Brooks said. Between those years, calls rose about 10%, from 822 to 902, and may break 1,000 calls for 2022.
The district has three full-time captains, as well as Brooks, and a full-time administrative assistant during the day. Fire Chief Sam Arola holds a part-time role with the district and the district has 46 volunteers to complement its paid staff.
“(They are) all great people, but they have other responsibilities, jobs, families, so it’s really hard to have someone available all of the time,” Brooks said in a release announcing the lid lift.
The district currently has one career firefighter stationed at its Amboy station around the clock, Brooks said. Most of the time, there are two or three firefighters on duty, though some nights it is the sole paid position.
The lid lift would allow three career firefighters to be on duty at all times, Brooks said. The district would still have to rely on volunteers to respond to calls, he added.
Fire District 10 is in the process of placing living quarters at its station in View, between Fargher Lake and La Center. Brooks said the district is looking to put a manufactured building on the site to complement the existing station’s three vehicle bays.
The district identified the need for a second station with living quarters a decade ago, Brooks said.
“That’s going to happen regardless, but we may have an empty building there some nights if we don’t get additional staffing,” Brooks said.
Having the western station staffed would cut down response times for medical calls by about four minutes and fire calls by even more, Brooks said.
When considering its higher levy rate, the district looked at how much funding it needed to raise in order to have two full-time crews, Brooks said. The lid lift would bring in an estimated $650,000 annually for the district.
The additional funding would be used to hire six career firefighters with the possibility of a part-time pool to help when the district is
short-staffed, Brooks said.
Fire District 10 is one of three districts covering North Clark County pursuing ballot measures related to levies in the Aug. 2 election. Compared to the other districts, Brooks said Fire District 10 doesn’t have the commercial and industrial property base that pays the bulk of the other districts’ levies.
“Single-family houses pay a smaller tax (amount) than a business does,” Brooks said.
Fire District 10 also doesn’t have the fire hydrants more urbanized districts do, which requires a larger response to create the water supply needed on fire calls, Brooks said. The jurisdiction also requires a keen knowledge of roads given addresses with the same road name might not be directly connected, he added.
Unlike school districts, fire district levies do not expire. The amount a levy can increase is capped at a certain percentage, and over time as property values increase, the levy rate trends downward, leading to a need for periodic lid lifts.
“We can kind of keep our head above water, but eventually the buying power of our taxes is outstripped by inflation,” Brooks said.
Fire District 10 previously ran a lid lift in 2017 to raise the levy to $1 per $1,000 which was approved by 77% of voters who cast ballots in favor of the measure. If the levy is approved, Brooks said its main effects would result in better service on the west side of the district and a better response on complex calls requiring more than one crew.
Brooks noted the district, like all of the others in the county, has a board of commissioners elected by those who live within Fire District 10’s boundaries.
“We are directly responsible for the people in North Clark County,” Brooks said.
The deadline for the August primary is 8 p.m. on Aug. 2.