Voters in the Asotin County Fire District will decide in November whether to increase the fire levy rate to help finish a new station on Appleside Boulevard, maintain emergency equipment and protect the district's insurance rating with the state.
Fire Chief Noel Hardin said the board of fire commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to put the question on the general election ballot. If it gets the green light, the levy would return to the same rate it was in 1995 - $1.06 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The current rate is 72 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
"This is the first time in the district's history that voters will be asked to approve an increase in funding for the fire levy," Hardin said Tuesday. "Our area is growing and we need adequate facilities, apparatus and personnel to respond. The lid lift will provide the resources to meet the increased demand for emergency services."
According to Hardin, call volumes have increased 13 percent since 2011 and the volunteer firefighter program is expanding. The district purchased land with a building at 2377 Appleside Blvd., that will serve as a larger fire station and training facility.
The station, funded in part with a $750,000 grant, is expected to accommodate volunteers and equipment for the next 50 years.
Hardin said a portion of the lid lift will be used to finish the station project and pay cash to replace aging apparatus instead of financing these projects and paying interest.
"In addition to saving lives, these projects are important to maintain the fire district's insurance rating, which is linked to the amount homeowners pay in insurance premiums," Hardin said.
The maximum a fire district is allowed to levy is $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, but Hardin says they don't need that much.
"We are a pretty lean and efficient operation," he said. "This is due, in large part, to the women and men who volunteer to respond to fire and emergency medical calls in our area. Their service saves our taxpayers about $1 million per year. We couldn't do this without them."
The proposed increase for the fire levy would cost the owner of a $200,000 home an additional $5.66 per month or $68 per year.
Property owners in the district pay 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for emergency medical services. This is a separate EMS levy with a fixed rate that will never increase, Hardin said.
Sandaine may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2264. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.