La PINE, Ore. - The La Pine Rural Fire Protection District Board of Directors on Monday filed with the Deschutes County clerk two ballot measures for the May 21 general election. They said the measures ask voters to renew funding for the fire and EMS service district at current rates and are essential to maintaining current service levels.
The first measure is a renewal of the 5-year local option levy for operations. The existing levy expires in July 2014 and the proposed measure would extend the existing current tax rate of .64 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for another five years.
Fire Chief Mike Supkis said the district has been using the local option levy since 1998 to ensure adequate responses to fire and medical emergencies, which the voters have renewed three times, the last in 2009.
The second measure is a replacement of a 10-year capital bond for apparatus and equipment.
The existing bond expires in July 2014 and the proposed measure would extend the current tax rate of .23 cents per $1,000 for 10 years as a levy, rather then a bond.
In doing so, Supkis said, the fire district would be debt free and save the taxpayers over $336,000 in interest and fees associated over the life of a bond.
The district has used 10-year bonds since 1974 to purchase apparatus, equipment and facilities, which the voters have renewed 4 times, the last being in 2004.
The proposed 5-year operations levy will keep district taxpayer rates the same and maintain the current levels of fire and emergency medical services.
A home valued at $100,000 would continue to pay $64 per year ($5.33/month). Estimated annual tax to be received by the District is $700,582.
The local option operating levy:
- Maintains two 24 hour / seven days a week paramedic units in service. The district responds to at least two or more concurrent emergency calls 305 times a year.
- Maintains at least one paramedic/firefighter officer in the District at all times to ensure on-duty response to multiple simultaneous calls and/or when all paramedic units are out of the District and transporting patients to Bend. The District has three or more simultaneous calls 72 times a year.
- Maintains operations out of all three district fire stations - Huntington, Burgess/Day and South Century Drive.
- Maintains volunteer reserve and student scholarship programs which provide an average of four additional personnel per shift to respond to calls.
- Allows for staffing a third ambulance or fire engine company.
- Maintains the new, improved 2012 community ISO insurance rating which results in lower insurance costs. A home insured for $100,000 pays an average of $521 a year LESS in property insurance due to the District's rating.
- Allows continued grant matches for equipment, apparatus and facilities which lowers overall costs. The District has received over $800,000 in competitive grants and equipment over the recent few years because it can show the community's ability and willingness to match grant support.
- Maintains 21 career firefighter paramedics.
- Maintains 21 volunteer student resident/scholarship firefighters and reserve firefighters.
The proposed 10-year capital levy will keep district taxpayer rates the same and sustains the current level of fire and emergency medical services. It replaces an expiring 10-year capital bond levy with a tax rate of $0.23/1000 assessed valuation with a capital local option levy with the same tax rate starting in July 2014.
If approved, a home valued at $100,000 would continue to pay $23 per year ($1.92/month). Estimated annual tax to be received by the district is $214,000.
The advantage of a local option levy is the taxpayers do not pay for the cost of issuing a new bond, and there is no interest payment. The district will also be debt-free for the first time since its inception. This proposal will save over $336,000 over the life of the measure while maintaining levels of service, Supkis said.
The fire district has $8.1 million in capital assets and a long-range capital plan to replace facilities, fire trucks, ambulances and equipment "in a responsible, efficient, and systematic manner," the fire chief said. The local option capital levy is projected to fund over ten years:
- Replacement of three paramedic ambulances which each average 150,000-200,000 miles at replacement.
- Replacement of three 25 year old wildland fire engines.
- Replacement of one 20 year old structural fire engine.
- Replacement of one 25 year old water tender/tanker.
- Replacement of one 25 year old first response/quick attack fire truck.
- Replacement of two 15 year old utility vehicles with over 160,000 miles at replacement.
- Replacement of 15 year old self contained breathing apparatus for firefighters.
- Replacement of 10 year old firefighter protective clothing and gear.
"The La Pine Fire District has weathered the recent economic downturn by prioritizing and frugality," the fire district's statement said. "The district continues to improve with the efficient and effective use of taxpayer funds by the use of best management practices, ongoing strategic planning processes, ten-year budget planning, and continually analyzing and improving expense and revenue structures.
"The district has highly trained and professional career and volunteer staff. The district's five elected directors have significant public emergency management and business experience. The directors set district service goals and provide oversight of Fire/EMS operations. The district has a yearly external audit of its finances and procedures which is open for review by the public."