Lane Fire Authority Will Place Reduced Levy Request on May 2021 Ballot Measure #20-320

 

In May 2021, Lane Fire Authority will be asking district patrons to support a levy of $0.35 cents per every $1000 of assessed property valuation. 

 

Why is Lane Fire Authority asking for support of this levy? 

 

Lane Fire Authority’s Vision is … “to provide the highest level of services that improve the quality of life, health, and safety of all we meet.” We are asking for this levy in order to support that vision.

 

Under our current staffing model, Lane Fire Authority provides critical fire and emergency medical services through a combination of volunteer and paid personnel. We have highly trained, dedicated volunteer personnel that are paramount to that vision, however, over the last several years the demographics of our volunteers have slowly changed.

 

These changes mean our volunteers have transitioned from lifelong community members that volunteer for 10-20 years, making their way through the ranks and bringing with them experience and knowledge, to predominately college and young adult aged volunteers working their way towards a career as a firefighter. These up and coming career firefighters are typically able to commit 3-5 years of service before they finish their training and education and move into full time paid roles with agencies throughout Oregon and the United States.

 

This shift in volunteer staffing is seen nationwide and many departments have to find other avenues for supplementing response. This shift in volunteer response, along with annual increases in call volume, make it difficult to continue to provide the same level of service our community has come to know and expect from us. There are times when a large portion of your fire district is only being covered by one responder. A one-person response to a fire or medical emergency is not only unsafe for the personnel responding, but is not the level of service you as community members expect. When simultaneous calls are received during these times, the response to second and third calls can be greatly delayed due to response having to come from outside the area.

 

In November of 2020, we unsuccessfully placed a levy request on the ballot asking the District’s voters to support a property tax increase of $0.50 cents per thousand of assessed value.  While this amount would have made it possible for Lane Fire Authority to hire an additional full-time crew, upgrade aging equipment (many of our fire engines and tenders are over twenty years old), and build up our cash reserves, we came to realize that in the current economic climate this was more than our voters were willing to support. Listening to the voices of our community is a vital component of this process and thus we have reduced our request by $0.15 cents. With some reprioritization it was determined that the most important aspect of that request, was additional personnel.

 

With a successful $0.35 cent levy, we will be able to maintain our current staffing levels as well as hire three additional personnel, which will add an additional firefighter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This eliminates those times when only one person is staffed in portions of the district.  

 

If we are unsuccessful in securing a $0.35 cent per thousand levy, we will be unable to adequately staff those areas, as well as likely have to make cuts in our current paid staff in the future, further impacting our response capabilities.

 

Fiscal responsibility is an important component of the service we provide to the community and Lane Fire Authority works hard to appropriately allocate and responsibly spend your tax money. On top of the Board of Directors and annual Budget Committee, Lane Fire Authority has an internal finance committee that meets monthly to ensure funds are being spent appropriately and make cuts or shift allocations when necessary. Lane Fire Authority applies for many grants throughout the year to offset expenses where we can. Because we don’t receive all grants we apply for awarded to us, using grants as a secure budgeting tool would be impractical and reckless. In addition, grants for personnel are typically very limited. This past year LFA had hoped to receive grant money for most of our COVID costs. This opportunity was minimally successful. We were, however, successful in receiving a grant for new fire engine, valued at over $600,000. Over half a million dollars will be paid to the District to help offset the cost. Despite it being a common occurrence in fire departments across the state to request funding through  levies, Lane Fire Authority and its entities have always found other ways to secure funding. Unfortunately, the cost of doing business in the fire service is outpacing the tax growth in our area and we cannot continue to provide the same level of service for long without successfully passing this levy.

 

Lane Fire Authority does not receive funding from the government agency of Lane County.  Nor do we receive funding from the City of Veneta, even though it is part of our coverage area.  At times our name has confused our patrons because “Lane” is the first part of our name, Lane Fire Authority. In reality, we are one of 16 separate special districts in Lane County (many are rural fire districts).  Each is an independent taxing agent.

 

Ultimately the community will decide how much money is budgeted for Fire & EMS Services. The District Board of Directors along with staff will continue to use these funds as responsible as possible. Below is a chart you can use to figure out the rough financial impact daily, monthly, and annually to your tax bill.

 

Thank you for your support, regardless how you vote.

Where can I find more information about the levy & the organization?

       Fire Chief Dale Borland is available to answer questions at (541) 935-2226 ext. 203 or at daleborland@lanefire.org

Virtual Levy Q&A 5/4/2021

Virtual Levy Q&A 5/11/2021