On Tuesday those residents will vote on whether to increase their property tax by about $31 per year to bolster the fire, rescue and EMS services from Fire District 44, of which Smith is chief. That figure is based on a $0.31 increase per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
That levy would provide $650,000 per year for the next four years. The fire district needs that additional money because declining assessed property value has shaved $1.85 million from its income between 2008 and 2013. The first three years of the levy would allow the department to simply catch up to where it was before 2008.
At the onset of this recession, I was discussing how fire departments should handle steep budget cuts with a mentor and friend from my days as an undergrad. He's brilliant when it comes to rhetoric, communication and public opinion.
To him, the problem was clear. Lay out exactly what each service costs and ask the municipal leaders to decide which services they want to go without when they slash budgets.
And that's more or less what Chief Smith did in Washington. He's taking the message to the voting public and telling them that without the tax levy, response time will be longer and there will be no more swiftwater rescue team.
That last point is important because the district responds to incidents on the Green River, parts of which are used for white-water rafting.
My friend's advice years ago was that agreeing to provide the same level of service with less resources sets the department up for a continuous cycle of cuts and added responsibilities.
Chief Smith says his department has been operating on about the same amount of money for the past 12 years. Meanwhile, the National Fire Protection Association reports that the cost of providing fire protection has risen 115 percent between 1986 and 2011.
The district made a run at a similar levy last spring, but fell short by 97 votes. It will take a supermajority for the measure to pass; that means 60 percent of the voters — or 2,390 yes votes.
Those who oppose additional taxes often do so over concerns of government growth and wasteful spending. That's why it is important to let voters and administrators know exactly what the money is needed for and exactly what happens when it goes away.
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Robert ChristianSaturday, November 02, 2013 6:39:01 AMPerfect example of what every Fire Service in the United States, that is facing budgetary issues / crisis.