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Cole County Fire District seeks 27-cent tax increase

Cole County Fire District seeks 27-cent tax increase

September 20th, 2018 by Bob Watson and Jeff Haldiman in Local News

In this Nov. 10, 2014 file photo, firefighters from the Cole County Fire Protection District work to extinguish a smoldering house fire in the county.

Photo by News Tribune /News Tribune.

The Cole County Fire Protection District wants voters in November to approve a 27-cent property tax increase.

The district is one of five rural fire districts operating in Cole County.

The others — Regional West, Russellville-Lohman, Osage and California Rural — are not affected by the proposed tax change.

The Cole County district serves about 220 square miles in Cole, Miller and Osage counties, and the county clerks in all three counties confirmed the district has placed the proposal on the Nov. 6 election ballot.

The draft of a flyer to explain and promote the proposal — prepared for and to be paid by the Committee For Better Fire Protection — notes the district hasn't had a tax increase since 1993, while the "cost of new apparatus, maintaining the current fleet of 28 apparatus and maintaining the seven fire stations has risen substantially over the past 25 years."

Under state law, the district — a tax-supported body — only can provide information about a tax proposal, but cannot promote it.

The committee, using private money, is allowed to promote the proposal, and use the district's information in that campaign.

The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday night to discuss the campaign and to approve — or modify — the draft version of the flyer, which was provided by the committee.

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Currently, the district's tax is 30 cents for each $100 of assessed property value.

The flyer also notes that, after 25 years at the current tax rate, "the district is at a point that we are restrained from making capital improvements, such as the purchase of new apparatus to replace the aging fleet. A larger portion of the district funds are being budgeted for maintenance and operation."

Only 10 of the district's 28 trucks are 10 years old or less.

The rest of the fleet ranges from 10 years to more than 40 years old — while the National Fire Protection Association says that "front line fire engines have a life expectancy of seven years."

And the cost for buying new equipment hasn't gone down.

In 1983, the committee's flyer reports, a new 1,000-gallon engine pumper cost $180,000.

Using an estimated cost for 2020, the district reports that pumper will cost $470,000.

An 1,800-gallon tanker was $120,000 in 1993, and is expected to cost $220,000 in 2020.

And a brush truck that was $20,000 in 1993 would be $65,000.

"The district's concern is that many of these apparatus will become high maintenance, thus using District funds that are needed for day-to-day operations," the flyer explains.

The district calculates passing the tax would raise property taxes by $51.30 a year for a home with a $100,000 assessed property value.

That increase would be $76.95 per year for a home valued at $150,000 and an additional $102.50 a year for a home valued at $200,000.

At the same time, the flyer reports, district officials continue working with the Insurance Services Office to reduce the insurance rating to a Class 4, which would lower homeowners' costs.

As an example, the flyer notes, the current rating is a Class 5, down from the previous Class 10 rating. The insurance premium for a Class 10 property valued at $100,000 is about $3,500 per year.

But, with creation of the fire district as a taxing entity in 1993 and its steady stream of revenue, the promotional flyer says, "the average home owner has saved approximately $1,500 to $2,000 per year" on insurance costs.

And those costs would be reduced more if the ISO rating is improved.

The district began in 1969 as a volunteer fire district south of Jefferson City's city limits.

The first fire station was on state Route C, about where Missouri 179 now intersects with Route C.

Now, the district operates seven stations — near the Jefferson City Jaycees' Cole County Fairgrounds, Brazito, St. Thomas, Eugene, Henley, Mary's Home, and on Monticello Road, just off U.S. 54 near the Twin Bridges over the Moreau River.