Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, May 25 @ 3:45 p.m.
Del Norte County Supervisors Endorse Crescent Fire District Property Tax Assessment Attempt
County supervisors followed their counterparts at the city and voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of a property tax assessment benefiting the Crescent Fire Protection District.
Del Norte County received five ballots for five parcels it owns within the fire protection district. These include the Del Norte County Airport, the Del Norte County Animal Shelter, a parcel next to the animal shelter, the ball fields on Macken Avenue and a small property on Elk Valley Road, according to the county’s staff report.
The total proposed property taxes for all five parcels would be $545.60 per year if voters within the fire protection district approve the assessment, according to the report.
This is Crescent Fire Protection District’s second attempt at getting property owners within its jurisdiction to agree to a benefit assessment.
“Without this assessment, going forward, the amount the district loses is about $110,000 starting next year,” Crescent Fire Protection Chief Bill Gillespie told supervisors. “Our goal is to raise approximately $421,000. The balance of that is earmarked to work in conjunction with the recommendations of a 10-year fire department master plan that spelled out service needs for our community going forward.”
The Crescent Fire Protection District began sending ballots to its constituents on April 30 in the hopes they will approve a $74 per-parcel assessment to replace an $18 assessment from 2006 that’s sunsetting at the end of the year.
If voters approve the assessment, the $74 will be added to a $24 assessment approved in 1987 for a total of about $98 per single-family residential home, according to Gillespie.
The per-parcel assessment fee will be capped at $1,000, which would apply to large commercial complexes and multi-family residential properties, according to Gillespie.
Property owners within the fire protection district have until 5 p.m. June 14 to submit their ballots, after which they’ll be counted.
The Crescent Fire Protection District’s first attempt at getting voters to approve a property tax assessment last autumn failed by about 23 votes, Gillespie told supervisors.
Among the goals outlined in the master plan, if the property assessment is approved, the Crescent Fire Protection District intends to establish a volunteer staffing program that includes sleeper crews of volunteers overseen by three paid firefighter positions, Gillespie said.
The additional funding will also go toward building a vehicle and equipment replacement reserve and address deferred maintenance at its facilities — the fire station at 255 W. Washington Blvd., for example, needs a new roof, Gillespie said.
The Crescent Fire Protection District does have a shared services agreement with Crescent city, which includes both sides covering the salaries for the fire chief and an administrative assistant as well as purchasing tools and equipment, Gillespie said.
On Tuesday, just before she voted in favor of the property tax assessment, District 2 Supervisor Valerie Starkey said she had called “everybody I know” to hear their thoughts on the fire district’s efforts.
A down side, Starkey said, is that for those on fixed incomes, asking them to pay an extra $74 could be a real hardship. Others she spoke with said that with Measure S and Measure R, the county’s successful 1 cent sales tax measure, being successful, asking voters to approve another property tax was bad timing.
Voters were also uncomfortable with signing their ballot, Starkey said.
But, Starkey noted, that Del Norte County is one of the last counties to have a volunteer firefighting system.
“If we are not able to sustain that and keep them equipped with all the apparatus and things they need, it’s possible that may go away,” she said. “If that’s the case, we’ll have to come up with ways to have a fire department and the cost that’s going to entail.”
The Crescent City Council on May 17 voted in support of the fire district's property tax assessment on two of its parcels.
According to Colette Mettz, of PlanWest Partners, implementing the 10-year fire department master plan would cost the city about $307,000. The Crescent Fire Protection District's share would be $355,000, according to Mettz.