It is well known that Quincy has one of the finest volunteer fire departments in the state. This fact not only gives us peace of mind, it also gives us access to lower property insurance rates. The excellent training, proficiency and readiness of our Emergency Responders was recognized in 2017 by the Insurance Service Organization, which conducts a review of fire departments across the country every five years. The ISO awarded our department with a very strong rating, which helps home and business owners to obtain property insurance at more favorable rates. And that can more then offset Measure A’s $96 annual tax assessment.
Quincy Fire Protection District’s rating is now an ISO Public Protection Class 3/3Y. In checking locally, I found that insurance premiums for a $240,000 residential structure in town with hydrants should be around $800 per year and in areas in the district without hydrants (PPC-3Y) premiums should be around $1,100 per year. By comparison, those in areas with a less favorable rating could expect to pay as much as 150 percent more per year for insurance — if you can get it at all.
It should be noted that property owners in the Quincy Fire Protection District are wholly responsible for funding the Quincy Volunteer Fire Department. The county, state or the federal government are not in any way obligated to fund fire departments. It is all on us, the property owners. The level of emergency services we get is what we choose to pay for.
Basic funding for the Quincy Volunteer Fire Department and other departments throughout the state comes from property taxes generated by a formula established in Proposition 13, passed statewide by voters in 1978. Over time, the formula has not kept up with inflation and increasingly has fallen short of adequately funding emergency services.
By 2006, the gap between Prop.13 funding and the volunteer fire department’s operating expenses had reached the point that supplemental funding was needed. In 2006, eligible voters approved a special parcel tax of $96 per year to bridge the gap. The 2006 parcel tax expired after five years, but the funding gap persisted, and voters renewed the tax in 2013, again for five years. The current tax expires on June 30, 2018.
Today, Prop. 13 funding covers only half the department’s budget and the parcel tax covers the other half. Keep in mind that we are funding a comparatively inexpensive volunteer department, with only the chief, secretary and a facilities/equipment technician on the payroll. Even at that, the funding gap is wide and persistent and the Prop.13 funding will never close the gap. The parcel tax has been crucial to the ongoing operations of our volunteer department since 2006, and the need will continue.
On Feb. 5, 2018, ballots for Measure “A” will be mailed to eligible voters in the Quincy Fire Protection District. Ballots must be returned or post-marked to the County Clerk/Recorder by March 6, 2018.
Measure “A” once again asks voters to continue supporting this very important parcel tax at the same rate as before, $96 per year and to make it ongoing. It also allows the Fire District’s Board of Commissioners — subject to a public hearing — to make annual inflation adjustments if necessary, never to exceed 2 percent.
Your YES vote on Measure “A” isn’t a new tax; again it’s simply a continuation of the existing tax assessment. It will ensure that the volunteer fire department is able to continue to provide the highest level of vital emergency services to our community.
Please take a moment to reflect on the high level of training and dedication of our volunteers. Voting yes to continue Measure A funding for our fire department is the right decision for our community.
You’ll find more information about Measure A and the volunteers in our department who protect us in a special insert in this issue of the Feather River Bulletin.