1. #1
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    postal79's Avatar
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    Default Looking to become a fire district HELP!

    does anyone out there know the specifics of becoming a fire district. we are now and for the past almost 100 years been at the mercy of our mayor and council for money every year, and every year we get a little bit more of the shaft. this year to the point that our budget is just about inoperable. so we are looking at alternative ways, and the idea of becoming a district and getting a fire tax came up, that or parking the trucks behind headquarters. any help would be greatly appreciated
    thank you
    9/11/01 forever in our hearts

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    The provisions for forming a fire district (or any other tax district)should be spelled out in your state law, assuming it's legal.

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    Sorry to hear about your situation. I wonder if the Mayor or Council would change their minds if their house was ever on fire. Where I live, the County 'renamed' each station to a 'district'. The company's retained their names and identities but it simplified the dispatch and response procedure. Our districts were numbered after our MCD's (Minor Civil Division). First, I would check into all legal aspects. Contact your company attorney, or an attorney. Remember, there is no law that states that a volunteer must show up @ every call. Or any for that matter. In the volunteer dept., their is no legal obligation to respond to calls. The only time in the volunteer sector that their is a legal obligation is when, say you have a sign up list at your station for people that are available to cover from a certain time to another. Unless it is written down, the obligation is a moral one. We all hate to sit back and listen to the 'tones drop' when someones house is burning, but it has happened in a town near where I live. The fire departement was getting no satisfaction with the Mayor and Council for any monies. So they, as a department refused to respond to any call. Luckily all of the calls were minor BS calls, but it worked and the tides have changed. I would seriously look into the legal aspects of things or even combining forces with a neighboring department. Good luck.

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    The only time in the volunteer sector that their is a legal obligation is when, say you have a sign up list at your station for people that are available to cover from a certain time to another. Unless it is written down, the obligation is a moral one.

    That is a very, very dangerous game to play.

    If your station, apparatus, equipment is in the title of the municipality...say bye bye.

    You'll probably lose any respect the Mayor/Council had of you.

    You'll probably lose support from the taxpayers.

    And the Mayor & Council will find someone else to contract with, probably for the same if not less money...and even if they pay more will explain they feel more comfortable paying XYZ department more money to cover their town than the bunch of cry-babies that refused to cover the town before.

    You're much better off pursuing what Postal's looking at -- forming a fire district. One of two reactions will happen -- the politicians won't care, or they'll see it as cutting into their power. In the first case, they'll be no opposition to the district. In the second, you know have leverage -- we need xxx budget or we'll push hard to form an independent district you have no control over.

    ==============
    Random Thought: Your fire department is not entitled to exist. Your community may have an obligation to fund fire protection -- but not your particular fire department. They have the right to hire another organization to provide that protection.

    A Favorite Story: The Selectmen (i.e. Mayor & Town Coucil) of one southeastern Connecticut town had two fire departments in town. They asked to meet with the officers of one of the departments one evening, "To discuss retirement plans." That fire department was all happy happy joy joy thinking the Selectmen wanted to talk about Length-Of-Service-Award-Plans. First hint something was up came when the Selectmen showed up with Highway Foreman & Town Highway Crew. "Your retired." announced the First Selectman, the Highway workers drove off the town-owned apparatus while the Foreman changed the locks on the town-owned station.

    Don't bite the hand that feeds you.
    IACOJ Canine Officer
    20/50

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    A couple more thoughts.
    Your city/township/whatever owns all of your stuff. Even though you may be able to form a district with taxing authority and all, you may not get any of your stuff in the deal.
    The type of municipality you live in may also have some bearing on whether you are able to form a fire district within it's borders and whether they have any say in it.
    You might want to get a lawyer to read into the state laws and any court rulings. Most likely this will be above the heads of most people in your dept.
    I can somewhat understand where you are coming from if Jersey is set up anything like New York. Village/city depts were usually funded a lot less than districts, since the districts could set their tax rate and all of the money went to the FD, whereas village gov'ts would give the FD whatever cut of the village budget they felt like giving up.

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    I don't mean to steal anyone's thunder...but could you all PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE go to my forum called "PLEASE READ ....IT COULD MEAN THE WORLD TO A FALLEN FFs CHILD" and take a minute out of your day to help send your love to a child or family of a fallen FF, Police Officer, or Rescue Worker in NYC. THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS!
    Never forget those who went before and sacrified to make us better and stronger as a fire service and a nation. 09-11-01 forever etched in time and our memories. God Speed Boys!

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    Check your state laws on formation of fire or special districts. Our state is quite specific on procedures which require a petition signed by 25% of the registered voters, a public hearing with the local governing bodies (city, township, county) included in the proposed district, and a special election.

    The district is limited by law on the amount levied for operations and capital outlay. A board of governors is elected from the community and oversees the district. Now you have a new board to justify your budget to.

    In addition the board is not bound to use your department. They can contract with anyone to provide the coverage.

    On the plus side, a district can solve many money problems but be prepared to open your books to the public as a district is normally a form of government and subject to all laws governing public records.

    You will need to do a lot of ground work to get support on district formation. The biggest question is "How much will it cost?" We prepared a handout with figures on yearly tax increase based on assessed property value. (I.E. A $100,000.00 property will cost $75.00, maximum could be $120.00)

    Good Luck

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    Maybe you should send a few officers to your local council meeting to discuss the idea of setting up a Fire contract. Around here many of us have Contracts that not only spell out how much we get yearly but it also indicates what areas in the particular Municipality you cover. Not only talk to a lawyer but talk to nieghboring departments to see how they set things up. The big thing is don't get into a fight with your local Municipality. Keep things civil you get more acomplished.

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