CAPTION: Measure to Adopt Local Option Levy to Maintain Fire Services

QUESTION: Should Fire District levy five year property tax of $.848 per thousand beginning FY 2003-04 to maintain fire protection?

SUMMARY: Multnomah County RFPD No. 10 measure imposes $.848 per thousand local option tax to fund fire protection at the same level of service as currently provided in the District. In 1996, the District reduced the tax levy on a temporary basis to eliminate a cash balance. Constitutional change made that reduced rate permanent. Since 1996, the District has annually drawn down cash reserves to pay for fire services contracted from the City of Gresham. Without reduction in service, the general fund reserves will be exhausted in 2004. Unless this measure is adopted, the District will be required to reduce fire fighters on duty in the District. The tax cost each year would be approximately $84.80 for a $100,000 property. The amount of local option tax to be raised is as follows:
















Multnomah Rural Fire Protection District #10 has provided fire protection and emergency services in east Multnomah County for 55 years.

The District includes unincorporated areas in east Multnomah County and the City of Maywood Park. It owns two fire stations, one in Troutdale leased to Gresham, and one in the Orient area. The District contracts with Portland for services in Maywood Park, and with Gresham for fire protection in the rest of the District, including staffing for the District station and apparatus at Orient.

The cost for providing fire and emergency services has exceeded the District’s property tax revenues for the past six years. In order to pay for the cost of services, the District has used fund balances for these past six years, and is budgeted to do so in the current year.

The reason for this is that the District, in 1996, had a large fund of cash reserves, which it sought to eliminate by deliberately reducing the level of taxation to less than the projected costs of fire and emergency services. This tax reduction was intended to be temporary, to eliminate excess reserves. Shortly after the taxes were reduced, Ballot Measures 47 and 50 were approved by the voters of the State of Oregon, with the effect that the District’s permanent tax rate was frozen at the new lower rate.
As originally intended by the Board, the District’s fund balances have decreased by $200,000 to $300,000 each year. The General Fund balance has now reached what the District Board believes to represent a minimum desirable operating level. However, because of the Constitutional changes, the Board can no longer increase property taxes to match the District costs of fire protection and emergency services.

The local option levy, if approved, would take effect for the year 2003-2004, and would allow the District to continue to provide the current level of service for the next five years, July 2003 to June 2008.

If approved, the additional tax burden on a property with a tax assessment value of $100,000 would be $84.80 per year, for no more than five years, starting with year 2003-2004.

If the local option levy is not approved, current projections indicate that the District will have to reduce the level of services provided. The most likely options are either to close the Orient fire station, and contract with Gresham to protect the area formerly covered by that station, from a more distant Gresham station; or to reduce staffing at the Orient station to two persons per shift, which would also require changing the equipment to a smaller fire engine that a two person crew could operate.

If the local option levy is not approved, the necessary cost reduction would result in greater delay in firefighters response to emergencies and/or fewer firefighters and less powerful equipment as the first response in the area that was served by the Orient station. These changes could cause future increase in fire insurance premiums in the affected areas.

Submitted by:
Multnomah RFPD #10 Board of Directors

No arguments FOR or AGAINST this measure were filed.