Montana Fire District Missing Taxes

 Nov. 03--Like most volunteer fire departments, Troy Rural Fire District 1F & 15F always seems to have more needs than it has funding to meet those needs.

So, when fire board members began to assess those areas within the district that are tax-paying members, they also began to see a growing number of areas that are not paying. The more the board searched, the greater number of areas it discovered are not paying, and that prompted the fire board to seek the county's assistance in getting those area's on the tax rolls.

"There are about 170 parcels that are not paying," Fire Board Treasurer Harold Etienne told Lincoln County Commissioners in session last Wednesday. "Without as many grants as we used to get, we're struggling to maintain our fire district."

Etienne was accompanied at the Commission meeting with Fire Board Secretary Herb Gregory.

"We believe we've lost quite a bit of revenue because of this," Etienne said.

Seeing the growing number of parcels not paying for fire protection, the Fire Board took their needs to the Lincoln County Planning Department, which provided the district with a color-coded map depicting taxed and untaxed areas.

Spreading the map across the Commissioners' meeting table, the five agreed the estimated 170 parcels amount to a double-digit portion currently not in the district.

"Oh, I guess it's about 15 percent," said Etienne said looking at Gregory.

"Fifteen- to 20 percent," Gregory said. "Probably more like 15 percent," estimating about one-sixth of the chart was not paying to the district.

Certainly, there areas scattered about the map, but mostly limited to four areas, those being "School House," "Mud Lake," "Lake and Iron Creek" areas.

Assessing the task of getting these areas onto the tax roll, Gregory said, "We started taking this on ourselves, and we soon realized it would take us three times as long as it would you (the county)," Gregory said. "We don't believe the (notice to residents) should come from us."

Commissioners Executive Assistant Bill Bischoff suggested in addition to the Planning Department, the board should talk to the Auditor's Office.

"The Planning Department has done a great job for us," Gregory said.

Presiding Commissioner Marianne Roose reminded both -- Etienne and Gregory -- tax money comes in a year behind.

"We'll get the process started, but you realize it will be next November before you start realizing these tax revenues?" Roose said, as both men acknowledged.

Troy Commissioner Ron Downey said he would assist as some of the parcels not on the rolls include timber lands.

In other action, the Lincoln County Commissioners also began district realignment to main equitable populations in each.

The largest populated district is Eureka, which shows an increase of 455 people. Both Libby (285) and Troy (169) experienced declines in populations.

The board also issued a decision from County Attorney Bernard Cassidy that states the Cabinet View Fire Protection District may only respond to structure fires. The district was seeking to expand its scope of operation to include EMT and ambulance service.

Troy Rural

Fire District 1F & 15F

Estimated areas not paying

-- School House

-- Mud Lake

-- Lake Creek

-- Iron Creek

(ASTERISK) 170 parcels may be 15 percent of district mass.

Copyright 2011 - The Western News, Libby, Mont.

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