Answering fire assessment questions | SierraSun.com

Answering fire assessment questions

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

Ryan Salm/Sierra Sun file photoTruckee Fire Chief Bryce Keller and his district have mailed out ballots to property owners who will vote on property assessments to fund more firefighters and defensible space efforts.

Truckee Fire Protection District will hold a workshop tonight on the proposed property assessment.

The assessment ballots have been mailed to property owners within the fire district. The funding from the proposed assessment would add staff, improve communications, and fund defensible space.

Voters will have until March 18 to decide whether to add between $49 to $145 per year to property taxes.

Some members of the public have raised questions about the assessment, however, ranging from how the vote is conducted to how the money will be used.

“I don’t think anybody should necessarily not vote for this,” said Mike Brugh, a Truckee resident. “My issue is transparency to keep people informed and keep people involved.”

He said he wanted to know more about the fire district’s budget and intentions for the money should the assessment pass.

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Truckee resident Denny Dickinson said he takes issue with the way votes are weighed.

“It would take three ‘no’ residential votes to offset one ‘yes’ commercial vote,” Dickinson said. “And institutional uses that don’t pay taxes get a vote.”

The Sierra Sun sat down with Truckee Fire Protection District Chief Bryce Keller to ask some of the frequently asked questions on the assessment.

Sierra Sun: Why are people’s names and addresses on the ballots? Will voting ‘no’ effect their service?

Keller: It’s a requirement of Prop 218. The district doesn’t make the rules, but we are obligated to play by them. Quite frankly the district is somewhat offended that people suggest we would alter our service to our constituents based on how they vote. Although it will be part of the record myself or any staff won’t know how an individual voted.

Sierra Sun: What kind of accountability is there in how assessment funds would be spent?

Keller: First of all accounting for our funds is the responsibility of our publicly-elected board of directors, and they have the responsibility to represent their constituents, we believe in that process. If people want to know how the money is being spent, walk into the office and ask me, or come to our board meetings. We are firefighters, and I believe we are in one of the most noble professions. I hope people would trust us to do the right thing at every turn.

Sierra Sun: Why are the votes weighted by the type of property?

Keller: There has to be a relationship between the assessment and the properties being assessed. At the end of the day what it comes down to is a benefit relationship ” it wasn’t just a number picked out of the skies ” it’s a defined process and I don’t have a choice.

Sierra Sun: Why is a property assessment necessary? Can new costs be assigned to new growth?

Keller: [Assembly Bill] 1600 disallows mitigation fees for use for personnel; It’s illegal. The district is at a critical crossroads and our elected officials recognized that and decided to give property owners the opportunity to decide what they want not only today, but into the future. We’ve recognized that with our action over time, our response times and our ability to deal with ongoing expanding incidents will be diminished. Here we have the opportunity to keep pace, but it’s up to the property owners.

Truckee Fire Protection district will hold a property owner workshop tonight at 6 p.m. at the Truckee Sanitary District board room, located at 12304 Joerger Drive.