07-30-2008, 02:53 PM #1
Eagle Mountain wants to make District
Eagle Mtn. proposes new fire district
Caleb Warnock - DAILY HERALD
Eagle Mountain is shopping around the idea of a northwest county fire tax district.
In a joint meeting between Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs recently, Eagle Mountain invited its neighbor to join the cause.
"The bottom line is if we did this right, we could save money for the taxpayers and provide better fire service," said Jason Walker, Eagle Mountain city staffer. "Eagle Mountain could pay a little less and Cedar Fort and Fairfield would pay more."
On Tuesday, Walker said that in the long term, creating a fire district should save money or at least decrease funds spent on staff, allowing an increase in spending on equipment.
Money is "the tricky part," he said. Eagle Mountain now spends just over $1 million a year on fire services. The city believes a tax district would go a long way toward making sure firefighting costs are fair. Right now, Eagle Mountain has a mutual aid agreement with Cedar Fort and Fairfield.
Eagle Mountain city administrator John Hendrickson said the city has begun a study of the issue.
"We would like to include you in the study," he told Saratoga Springs Council members.
"I don't see any reason not to -- just say it was our idea," said Saratoga Springs Mayor Tim Parker with a laugh.
Eagle Mountain has not yet approached Cedar Fort or Fairfield with an official proposal to form a district.
Cedar Fort has a volunteer fire department that also provides service to Fairfield, Walker said.
In theory, both towns would fight their own fires, with Eagle Mountain aiding them only as necessary. But in reality Eagle Mountain's full-time firefighters can often get to fires in Cedar Fort and Fairfield faster than the volunteer department.
If the four municipalities form a taxing fire district, "everyone in the district would pay their own fair share," Walker said. In addition, "by having more people in the district, it allows us to purchase in bulk and to have a greater borrowing power."
And delete redundancies.
"You would have one chief instead of four chiefs," he said.
Eagle Mountain council members have yet to sign off on any specific tax district proposal, but city staffers working on the project are studying the idea of having Eagle Mountain drop taxes by the $1 million amount it now spends on fire services, and then charge residents the same amount in new fire district taxes, meaning residents would not pay any more or less. The tax district would have to be approved by a vote of residents.
The city would also have the option of keeping its current tax rate and asking residents to approve the tax district, which would be a tax increase. Staffers are not proposing this option.
Over the next several months, Eagle Mountain will put together a more formal proposal, and try to pinpoint what kind of a budget the fire district would need. Eagle Mountain will then make the proposal to Saratoga Springs, Cedar Fort and Fairfield.
If all four cities were in favor of the proposal, it is unclear how soon the question could be put to voters, Walker said.
Eagle Mountain has 13 full-time firefighters including its chief and 24 part-time firefighters working under various contracts.
I tried this back in my Reign as Chief and hit hard doors, I hope they have better luck nowa days with this. It makes all the sense to do it.
Founding member and Frist 25J601
1996-2000Front line since 1983 and still going strong
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