My Turn: Fire district services, growth and taxes | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Fire district services, growth and taxes

Bryce Keller is the chief of the Truckee Fire Protection District

The Oct. 1 issue of the Sierra Sun carried a front-page story “FIRE TAX STALLED.”

Since then the district has received numerous phone calls from constituents asking questions. With all due respect the article may have generated more confusion than clarification. Recently one of my neighbors asked me for clarification on the subject.

He too was confused by the recent article, but after clearly explaining the issue he understands as an existing improved property owner he won’t be taxed by the “Mello-Roos” proposal and thus supports the district’s position. I offer the following clarification:

Make no mistake the district remains committed to providing long-term professional all risk fire, rescue, and emergency medical services today and in the future. This is a responsibility that is not taken lightly by your elected officials and district staff.

Growth is happening today and will continue within the fire district boundaries. The tax currently being considered is a “Mello-Roos” tax that ONLY applies to certain (qualifying) new developments. Again, the tax currently being considered is a “Mello-Roos” tax that ONLY qualifying NEW developments would be subject to. The proposed tax is NOT a general tax, thus existing improved property owners and non-qualifying new projects (i.e. single family residence on an existing lot) would NOT be taxed. The “Mello-Roos” tax is the preferred method of the district to offset the impacts of “New Growth”.

Impacts of future growth and how the district is going to deal with growth was one of many concerns brought forward to the District and your elected officials during the benefit assessment proceedings. The elected officials and staff listened; they heard you and acted on your concerns!

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Despite other revenue sources, such as the recently approved property owner fire benefit assessment; “New Growth” and the corresponding service demands of growth will adversely impact future service levels of all constituents unless the impacts are offset. This is exactly the focus and purpose of the proposed “Mello-Roos” taxing mechanism proposed by the district. The district is protecting you, the current property owner and taxpayer. It is the responsibility of the district and your elected officials to take on the tough issues, vision the future and watch out for the whole community.

Again, your elected officials of the district do not take their responsibilities lightly and remain committed to providing the same quality services today that are not diluted by new growth in the future. Like other special districts and municipalities across the State, the “Mello-Roos” tax remains the district’s preferred method to offset the impacts of new growth and is allowed under current law. The law also allows for the affected property owner(s) to protest the formation of the taxing district. Protests were filed recently on behalf of the majority of the affected property owners, leading to the headlines “FIRE TAX STALLED.” Those projects protesting were the Gondola North Homesite Project at Sugar Bowl, a 20 plus unit planned subdivision and Timber Creek at Tahoe, a 60 plus unit planned subdivision in Truckee. As a result of the their protests all proceedings for the formation of the “Mello-Roos” tax district known as Truckee Fire Protection District Community Facilities District (CFD) 2008-01 as specified are suspended for a minimum of 12 months.

So what’s next … Does this mean that new growth projects will move forward without offsets? Yes and no … the project(s) will continue to move through the approval process with the appropriate jurisdictions, be it the town, Nevada County or Placer County and the fire district will go on the record with those agencies that the fire district may not approve or issue a will serve letter for the proposed projects until a satisfactory offset is established such as a “Mello-Roos” tax or “Community Facilities District” (CFD).

If new growth doesn’t begin to fully offset their service impacts the district at some future date could be forced to consider and move forward another “General Tax” to all in order to maintain and continue fire-rescue and medical service levels, or we would have to “dilute” the existing level of service as the same number of trained personnel would have to respond to more and more calls, thereby lengthening the response times to the emergency calls we receive. I hope this clarification of the issue has helped rather than create more questions. If more questions have been raised, please contact the fire district administration.