MOSIER FIRE DISTRICT PASSES!
Official final results:
Measure 33-67 (Dissolution of existing Mosier Rural Fire Protection District): 152 YES, 91 NO
Measure 33-68 (Formation of Mosier Fire District): 209 YES, 142 NO
Board of Directors:
Ken Hudson, Darin Molesworth, Lee Roy Herman, James Matthisen, Glenn Bartholomew
Many, many thanks to all who helped us make this historic change. The new fire district officially started doing busines on July 1, 2010. We encourage and look forward to broad participation. Board meetings are usually held on the second Thursday of the month, at the Fire District Office (208 Washington Street).
NEW! click the link above to view a graph showing how the new fire district will affect property taxes.
Why a new Fire District?
When the former Mosier Rural Fire Protection District (RFPD) was formed in 1966, the founders wanted it to include the City of Mosier but they were advised that a city could not be part of a RFPD. So the City and the RFPD were separate entities from 1966 until July 2010. They had separate coverage areas for fire protection, separate taxes and budgets, and separate administration.
The old arrangement made it a challenge to run the two as if they are a single unit. The City and RFPD did not always agree on goals and priorities, and virtually all decisions, large or small, got bogged down in interpretations of contracts and formal agreements as to who pays for what. We have actually argued about why “my” gas is in “your” truck!
The Mosier Fire District ended the bureaucratic headache resulting from separation of the City and the RFPD. This change is long overdue. There are no other boundary changes in relation to the former RFPD.
Will My Taxes Go Up?
Prior to the new district, about three percent of your total property tax bill went to fire protection. Think about that. Three percent. Wasco County Library levies at a higher rate than your old fire department did.
Under the old arrangement, our total annual budgetwas about $45,000, representing the RFPD’s levy and the City’s allocation for fire. By comparison, our neighbors to the west in Pine Grove have an annual budget of about $360,000, for a district about half the size of Mosier and roughly equal populations. That’s an eight-hundred percent difference!
Under the old system, no public money was budgeted in Mosier for training, emergency medical, and basic safety equipment.
The new Mosier Fire District has a permanent tax rate limit of $2.10 per thousand of assessed value. The Board approved a rate of $1.65 per thousand for the fiscal year running July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011.
Taxable assessed value is usually quite a bit lower than market value here in Wasco County, and includes ONLY RESIDENCES AND UP TO FIVE ACRES. Mosier Fire can tell you exactly what your taxable assessed value is, and exactly what the tax ramifications of the new fire district are based on your actual assessed value. The median average taxable assessed value in the fire district is about $115,000, for a total fire district tax of $190 at the $1.65 rate, and $242 at $2.10/K. There is no requirement that the new Mosier Fire District levy up to the full rate limit ever.
What Will the New Fire District Do?
The Mosier Fire District sets three priorities which are either non-existent or marginal in prior budgeting:
Emergency Medical — Adequate public funding for basic life support and rescue. This was formerly budgeted out of donations and proceeds from the annual Smorgasbord.
Training — Roughly one-third of the approved budget goes to instruction costs, honoraria, and supplies, including emphasis on Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s). Five of us are applying for an EMT class this fall, which should give us a total of eight EMT’s next spring (2011).
Paid Staff — Running the fire department is more than a full-time commitment. It cannot be done successfully and sustainably on a volunteer basis.
Refer to the approved budget for more details.
Can’t We Just Join Another District?
Voters in both districts would need to approve a merger. There’s not much chance of that as long as Mosier has little to offer in the way of resources and trained personnel.
In fact, we have informally discussed such a merger with Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue (MCFR) in The Dalles. MCFR’s Chief Bob Palmer has outlined the steps we’d need to take to make ourselves attractive to MCFR, and those steps are the basis for our projected budget.
And in order for a merger to proceed smoothly, it helps immensely if the tax rate limits match. This is in fact the reason for setting Mosier Fire District’s rate limit at $2.10, the same as MCFR.
You Guys Rocked on the Microwave Fire,
Is All of This Really Necessary?
Despite appearances, we learned a lot about our shortcomings last August.
We had more equipment than people, and many of us were a little rusty, both men and machine. We got by out of luck and grit, and with considerable help from our neighboring departments from throughout the Gorge, and later statewide.
If anything, the Microwave Fire underlined the need for changes proposed in the new Mosier Fire District.
Who Are the Board Members?
Glenn Bartholomew (Carroll Rd), retired US Navy, owner of Dominio IV Winery, volunteer firefighter, current Board member of RFPD
Lee Roy Herman (Kingdom Ave), retired truck driver, volunteer firefighter, current president of Volunteers
Ken Hudson (Mosier Creek Rd), orchardist, volunteer firefighter, current Board member of RFPD
James Matthisen (Canyon Way), actuary, owner of Springhouse Cellar Winery, volunteer firefighter, current Board member of RFPD
Darin Molesworth (Carroll Rd), orchardist, volunteer firefighter, current Board member of RFPD