Truckee fire tax passed by voters | SierraSun.com

Truckee fire tax passed by voters

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun
Greyson Howard/Sierra SunKevin McKechnie, a firefighter and paramedic with the Truckee Fire Protection District, uses the district's communications equipment Monday afternoon. Voters passed the district's property assessment, which would pay for an upgrade to the district's communications system, more firefighters and defensible space.
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Truckee voters came out in favor of the Truckee Fire Protection District’s property assessment last week, voting for the tax that would increase personnel and speed up response times.

The assessment will add $49 per year to single homes and $145 per year to commercial and industrial parcels. All together, the district hopes to raise $800,000 annually for additional personnel, a communications upgrade, and defensible space work.

“We’re very pleased it passed by a good, clear percentage,” said Fire Marshall Bob Bena. “It’s the community who benefits from this ” it will reduce response times throughout the area.”

The unofficial results will be made official at the district’s next board meeting in April.

Along with verifying the results of the election, the board of directors will make the final decision to implement the assessment, Bena said.

At that point, the district will have to work with Nevada and Placer counties to collect the additional fees, he said.

“The earliest the new firefighters will come on board will probably be next January,” Bena said.

The additional six firefighters would help the district respond quickly to fires and emergencies even as the community grows, said Chief Bryce Keller in a previous interview.

But as the final votes were being cast, some still expressed reservations about the assessment at the March 18 district meeting.

Because the assessment had very little exposure prior to the vote, the district did not adequately explain why an assessment was the only option, said Pat Davison, with the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe Political Action Committee.

“We opposed the assessment as proposed, but if you decide to go forward, we suggest a citizens oversight committee much like North Tahoe Fire, the college, or the hospital,” Davison said at the March 18 meeting.

Because the assessment is designed to pay to keep response times up in the face of new growth, Dan Warren, general manager of the Glenshire Devonshire Residents Association said only new growth should pay for it.

“It’s my understanding that with this assessment you can solicit the board to be exempt. I would like to be exempt,” Warren said.

A property owner would have to prove that they don’t especially benefit from the services provided by the assessment, said Habib Isaac with Muni Financial, the firm that worked with the district on the vote.

But Warren argued that he, along with other existing property owners, wouldn’t benefit ” they would stay the same.

Because different types of property would be assessed differently, votes were weighted by that dollar amount ” one vote for each dollar assessed, according to http://www.truckeefire.org.

This means that while 58 percent of the ballots cast were in favor of the assessment, 56 percent of the actual vote counted in the yes column.

The vote required more than 50 percent to pass, so 56 percent in favor, versus 44 percent against is a comfortable margin, said Fire Marshall Bob Bena.

With a total of 8,589 ballots cast (equal to $340,380.92 in assessed value), less than half of the more than 20,000 ballots mailed were returned.

“We expected about 50 percent response, so overall this is a little below,” Bena said.

The Western Nevada County League of Women Voters observed the vote counting, according to a district release.