Fire protection and related emergency services are central functions of civilization. Along with police and military, they are how Americans join together to provide for our common defense. But as with all such efforts, they cost money and, from time to time, the mechanisms by which they are funded have to be adjusted.
For the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District, that means a “yes” vote on Ballot Question 4A.
The district provides “all hazard response,” including emergency medical response and ambulance service, firefighting and rescue services. It handles hazardous materials, offers public education and helps with fuel mitigation and fire prevention.
All that is both good and necessary. Funding for those services, however, has not kept up. The current mill levy was set in 1998, but depressed revenue from the gas industry and lower property values have seriously cut into the district’s funding. The district’s tax revenue has been reduced by $1.175 million since 2010. Without the proposed tax increase, its estimated spending for 2014 would be less than half of this year’s. Even with cuts to staffing, sales of equipment and tapping into its reserves, the district will not be able to continue current levels of service beyond 2013 without additional revenue.
With the money from Ballot Question 4A, the district plans to improve its service by offering paramedic level service, staffing a wildfire engine from March to October and keeping the Forest Lakes fire station staffed 24 hours per day. It would also allow the district to boost pay for firefighters and restore staffing to fire stations at Vallecito and Bayfield.
The measure is also structured responsibly. It specifically says the authorized mill levy can be reduced at any time by the district’s board should circumstances change. (Any increase would, of course, have to go before the voters.) And the measure will “sunset” in 10 years. To extend the mill levy beyond that would require the voters to re-authorize it.
In every recent year, we have been shown greater and increasingly dramatic examples of the danger of fire. And every one of us lives one accident or illness away from requiring emergency medical care. Providing such protection is the least we can do for each other – and for ourselves.
Vote “yes” on Ballot Question 4A.