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    Default Question on fire districts

    My question is to anyone that is a member of a Fire Department that is an official Fire District. I live in Arkansas and some of the larger cities keeps annexing parts of our response area when a new subdivision is built so they get the city taxes. My question is I have heard if you become a true Fire district they can not annex land away from you. Does anyone have first hand knowledge of this?

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    Lightbulb Scratching the surface...

    I took a cursory glance through the sections of the Arkansas State Code online that pertain to fire districts and such without seeing any specific mention. Of course, that certainly doesn't mean that it's not there.

    On one hand, there are a number of districts that overlap with city boundaries -- water & sewer districts, surburban improvement districts, etc. Also, I know that the City of Sherwood has no municipal fire department and a fire protection district covers that territory. So, one would think that a fire protection district could maintain its boundaries regardless of city limits. However, I drive a fire engine for a living. I'm certainly not a lawyer.

    In your post, you talk about becoming a "true" fire district. What might your department be now?

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    Quote Originally Posted by cozmosis[/quote
    In your post, you talk about becoming a "true" fire district. What might your department be now?
    A department is a division or department of a City government. A District, as in a "true" fire district would be a special services or special taxing district. A fire DEPARTMENT gets it's funding from the City fathers or general fund. A taxing fire district derives it's monies directly from the pockets of the citizens.

    As it is to my understanding....
    Best said as: I drive a fire engine for a living. I'm certainly not a lawyer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mark440
    In your post, you talk about becoming a "true" fire district. What might your department be now?
    A department is a division or department of a City government. A District, as in a "true" fire district would be a special services or special taxing district. A fire DEPARTMENT gets it's funding from the City fathers or general fund. A taxing fire district derives it's monies directly from the pockets of the citizens.

    As it is to my understanding....
    Best said as: I drive a fire engine for a living. I'm certainly not a lawyer.

    *Mark[/QUOTE]

    Very good.

    I work for a state fire control district which covers 4 towns and a big chunk of county area. In Fla, the state fire districts were created by the state to provide fre service to areas outside of city lines, in counties that dont have county departments. We have four districts in my county, the rest are city departments. We have our own board, and set our own tax rates.

    As for the annexation question, our board went to the state and got our charter changed o read that even if a city annexes part of our district, we still get the fire tax. Our way is not normal. I know at least one of the other districts here does not have this, and have been losing money from annexations.
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    Currently my Fire Department is classafied as a response area instead of a fire district. From what I have been told a district has harder boundry lines so that a piece of land cant be annexed or deannex. And the Financial side of it is easier instead of the FD billing each member the billing is handled by the county tax collector they basically take the amount you charge per year and add it to the property tax.

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    Check your local laws concerning this. In general a city has the right to protect its residents. If Mr. Smith lives in Anytown USA he is paying taxes to Anytown, why would he want to pay double so the Capable Fire District could protect him?
    It isn't always that easy but that is how it goes. Now their are rules governing a district taking from another district. Check what the books say.

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    As has been said, you really need to check the laws specific to your state but I seriously doubt you have the ability to stop a municipality from annexing territory. That's a basic power of local government. There's also a freedom of association issue - if the people of an area say they want to be part of a city, a fire department isn't going to be able to stop them.

    In a similar vein, since the city government is the Authority Having Jurisdiction, once they annex territory they usually get to decide who provides fire protection for the area. It may be a municipal department or via contract with another entity. That's not true in every state, so again check your local laws.

    There may, however, be mechanisms in your state's law to at least protect your revenue. In Alabama, if a city annexes an area protected by an independent fire district and the annexation adversely impacts their revenue, the city conducting the annexation must make good on that district's debts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EFD840
    As has been said, you really need to check the laws specific to your state but I seriously doubt you have the ability to stop a municipality from annexing territory. That's a basic power of local government. There's also a freedom of association issue - if the people of an area say they want to be part of a city, a fire department isn't going to be able to stop them.

    The problem is the residents in the area do not want to be annexed. That is why they have come to us for help in blocking it. That is how the Fire District idea came up. Gotta love it........

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    Research Vincennes Indiana. the city fire covers the city and the vincennes twp fire protection district covers every thing else on 3 sides with the 4th being state line of Illinois. I have heard them say many times they cant get any larger unless they join with the township since their a district.

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    Res81cue,
    My department here in central Arkansas is both a Municipal department and a Fire District. When the department was enacted in the 1970's the city council put in the ordinance that we would also incorporate rural areas outside the city limits. About four years ago, we put on the ballot to be Fire District and it passed. All this has done for us is give us a tax base for our Fire Department to operate from. My understanding is that is all a Fire District will do for you is let you get money from property taxes instead of relying on peoples goodwill. By the way, have you contacted the Forestry Commission to see if they could help you any?

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    Just south of you in Louisiana.

    In Louisiana, as was stated earlier a fire department is funded through a muncipal general fund while a fire district has direct taxing power through the parish government (to set it's own rated if approved by the voters) and recieves it's money directly from the public.

    Here in Louisiana, a fire district generally covers a part of an unincorporated section of the county. The government in our area, outside of the 3 cities in the parish is the parish government. At any time, a city, with a vote of the residents in the area they want to annex, can annex a chunk of the county. That piece of land now bwcomes part of the city and the city must then provide all services.

    We have some prime real estate that 2 cities would like to annex, but so far the residents have rebuffed thier attempts, primarily becuase they don't want to pay city taxes. The parish, and we are powerless legally to stop them. We can only hope that we (and the other parish services) are good enough to keep them happy in the future. In some areas, especially south of Shreveport, the area looks like a checkerboard where the city has annexed pockets of the parish not connected to the city floating in the parish. In some places these pockets are miles from city fire stations and very close to the stations of other fire districts. They find out after they vote to be annexed that the services are more distant than they thought.

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    Question

    Ive got a question about Fire Companys. As a company,do you basically contract your services?

    I'm a member of a Fire Company, we have a set response area and we only get funding through insurance (we recieve a portion of the insurance paid). No taxes, and some state funds.

    So what is the real difference between a Fire Department and a Fire Company.
    Is it a public vs. private thing?
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    re: Company v. Department

    Just a matter of what you decided to name yourself.

    A "Department" is traditionally considered a department of a municipality or other taxing entity.

    However, I've seen plenty of of "Volunteer Fire Department, Inc." organizations.

    And many city "departments" that are named Fire-Rescue, Bureau, Division, etc. I've seen independent organizations with names including Association and Brigade as well as the more common Company or Department.

    One town near me has three incorporated organizations (___Volunteer Fire Association, _____ Fire Company, and _____ Fire Brigade) that provide services, with an association of all three called the _____ Fire Protection Association that receives the Town's tax monies, and distributes it to the three volunteer departments.

    Some incorporated organizations maintain formal contracts, some have informal agreements, and some just by on charity.

    =========
    re: The original district question...

    1) VERY dependent on state laws.

    2) In general, my understanding is cities can annex at will against "districts" -- your only protection against annexation is to be incorporated as a city.

    The city most likely would have responsibility to reach a fiscal agreement of some sort with the district -- if they annex 5% of the district's tax base, they pay off 5% of the district's obligations. If you didn't have the City and District reaching some sort of equitable deal, you'd have the bad situation of one political subdivision of a state forcing another political subdivision default on it's bills. That's bad!

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    The department I was on in Vermont was a "company", but it was just the choice of words they made back in the 50's when they organized the department.

    We were setup as a tax-exempt non-profit corporation and contracted with the town to provide fire protection. The town had no hand in our operations or personnel.

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    Another thing to look into/at...
    Unified Fire Authority of Greater Salt Lake (UFAGS) was created January 1, 2005. It was formerly known as Salt Lake County Fire Department. From what I understand, and it is in Utah, that they now collect thier special taxing district funds and the incorporated cities they protect are by contracts.

    Large FD can do it.

    Just how I understand it. Don't quote me....

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    Mark's post reminds of something you don't see out east...

    And I'm not sure if the Salt Lake thing is setup as one or not, but I've seen them in California --

    A Joint Powers Agreement. Basically, it's a formal pooling of resources -- City A is responsible for fire protection, City B is too. Instead of creating a "District of Cities A & B" to provide fire protection, the two cities enter into a contract to create a single department they both fund. The JPA of course spells out governance, finances, what happens if someone wants to withdraw.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RES81CUE
    The problem is the residents in the area do not want to be annexed. That is why they have come to us for help in blocking it. That is how the Fire District idea came up. Gotta love it........
    It would also pay to see how annexations are accomplished under your state law. Speaking generally and based almost entirely on the laws of my state, if the majority don't want to be annexed, then it probably ain't gonna happen. USUALLY, annexations occur in one of three ways:

    1) Request/consent of the property owner.
    2) Vote of the population in the potential area of annexation.
    3) Special legislative action at the state level.

    Just a word of warning on determining 'what the residents want'. Often times annexations of areas that have been unincorprated for a long time occur because the area has suddenly experienced a spurt of growth. Either the new residents want the services of a local municipal government or the local government wants the tax revenue from the new growth. Usually, a combination of both factors spur the annexation.

    In direct contrast to the newcomers, old residents of the area have been used to doing what they want to, how they want to for a long time. They got along fine for years without the city and they don't see any reason to need them now. They're vehement and vocal in their opposition to annexation. There also likely to be in the minority.

    Make sure you aren't getting drawn into a fight that is already over.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RES81CUE
    My question is to anyone that is a member of a Fire Department that is an official Fire District. I live in Arkansas and some of the larger cities keeps annexing parts of our response area when a new subdivision is built so they get the city taxes. My question is I have heard if you become a true Fire district they can not annex land away from you. Does anyone have first hand knowledge of this?
    The best answer that really can be given would be to check with a local legal eagle or another local fire district.

    Each state sets the rules for districts, some are offical tax designated areas and would have to be released to be claimed, others could be "aquired" by a 51% vote of the area to be annexed OR 51% of the entire district area. The rules are numerous and the exceptions to those rules even more so.

    If you are with a state fire association they might have advice on the matter or where to look up the legalities.

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    Thanks, for everyones input.

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    You need to check to see who the builder or contractor was for those subdivisions that were annexed in the city. Did they request to be in city??

    In Wisconsin, a municipality just can't come swooping in and swallowing up the townships annexing everything in sight. The only way a city may annex something is if the property owner petitions the city to be annexed and provide a reason why they want to be in the city. Usually it is for city water and sewer but sometimes it is for other city services like police and fire.

    The city can control the zoning and building styles bordering the city. It is called "imminent domain" meaning that the property may be annexed someday so it can control some aspects of the zoning so when and if the day comes that it is in the city, it will fit within the zoning regulations.

    What is common in my neck of the woods is a builder will enter into an agreement with the city that they will build a sub-division with all the required infrastructure for water and sewer with the agreement that when it is completed, the city will annex it. Seems to work well. The city doesn't have to pay to install the infrastructure and the builder gets his cash. The city makes up for that cost in collection of taxes. Sometimes they can get into a little trouble like my city did. Made too many deals and all of a sudden they didn't have the water pump capacity to keep up. Had to install emergency pumps until they could install bigger or additional pumps.
    Last edited by Dickey; 03-21-2006 at 08:51 PM.
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    Default Civics lesson before Dal beats me to it...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dickey
    You need to check to see who the builder or contractor was for those subdivisions that were annexed in the city. Did they request to be in city??

    In Wisconsin, a municipality just can't come swooping in and swallowing up the townships annexing everything in sight. The only way a city may annex something is if the property owner petitions the city to be annexed and provide a reason why they want to be in the city. Usually it is for city water and sewer but sometimes it is for other city services like police and fire.

    The city can control the zoning and building styles bordering the city. It is called "imminent domain" meaning that the property may be annexed someday so it can control some aspects of the zoning so when and if the day comes that it is in the city, it will fit within the zoning regulations.

    What is common in my neck of the woods is a builder will enter into an agreement with the city that they will build a sub-division with all the required infrastructure for water and sewer with the agreement that when it is completed, the city will annex it. Seems to work well. The city doesn't have to pay to install the infrastructure and the builder gets his cash. The city makes up for that cost in collection of taxes. Sometimes they can get into a little trouble like my city did. Made too many deals and all of a sudden they didn't have the water pump capacity to keep up. Had to install emergency pumps until they could install bigger or additional pumps.

    Dickey, I think you may be confusing your terms.

    Eminent Domain is the term used to describe a government's ability to acquire private property against the wishes of the landowner. Until the Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, the use of this power was typically limited to public use projects. The Keno ruling affirmed that the power could be used for projects that benefitted private citizens but also had a public benefit. In the case of Keno, it was a waterfront marina, housing, and retail development. As a result of this ruling, many states are now altering their constitutions to restrict Eminent Domain powers to clear public projects like airports, sewers, etc.

    The ability to control development outside a municipality's boundaries is usually accomplished through a combination of zoning and subdivision regulation as part of a comprehensive plan. The plan maps out where the municipality thinks its future growth lies in terms of annexations, population trends, industry, infrastructure, transportation, etc. The ability to exercise this type of control is usually considered a general police power just like building code adoption and enforcement.

    Annexation merely expands the corporate limits without affecting ownership. A quick google on Wisconsin Annexation turned up this site , which explains your state's annexation process. I didn't delve into the specifics, but on the surface it looks like most other states - either all the landowners agree to be annexed or there is an election to determine the desire of the people.
    Last edited by EFD840; 03-22-2006 at 09:24 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ADSNWFLD
    Check your local laws concerning this. In general a city has the right to protect its residents. If Mr. Smith lives in Anytown USA he is paying taxes to Anytown, why would he want to pay double so the Capable Fire District could protect him?
    It isn't always that easy but that is how it goes. Now their are rules governing a district taking from another district. Check what the books say.
    "Generally" a city is REQUIRED to protect it's residents. Including fire and police protection. In Iowa if they don't/can't they loose their incorporated status (town is disolved). If you're doing a good job you could be contracted to provide the fire protection. Perhaps discuss relative ISO rating, manpower, equipment, etc with the city and the county.

    Regarding annexation. If city wants to annex a particular section of terrain (and were there are known to be "antiannexation" residents) they draw a territory such they can expect to get a 51% vote favorable to the annexation play. If they get the 51% the ALL of the territory is annexed. Do it multiple time until achieve the desired result.

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