Long Valley Community Services District Board Chairman Steve McDowell hangs a banner on the Long Valley Fire Department on Monday, Oct. 4. The volunteer fire department is hoping voting residents in its district will approve Measure B on Nov. 2. Photo submitted

Measure B could determine fate of Long Valley Fire Department

The future of the Long Valley Volunteer Fire Department will be in the hands of the voters in its district on November 2.

For the first time since 2005, the LVFD is asking the residents it serves to approve a rate hike attached to their annual property tax to fund the volunteer fire department. Two thirds of the voting residents in the Long Valley Community Service District must vote “yes” on Measure B for it to pass. If it does, property owners would pay an additional $85 per year.

“We deliberated long and hard about asking for this increase,” LVCSD Board Chairman Steve McDowell said. “But at the rate we are going we will be out of money in a few years.”

For the past several years the fire department has relied on donations and used reserves to balance its budget. During its September meeting the board of directors approved a “bare bones” $33,000 budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. The district has been receiving about $18,000 annually for the past 16 years.

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The all-volunteer department, led by Chief Steve Peters, currently has seven firefighters. In an average year Peters said the volunteers respond to nearly 100 calls — about 90 percent of those are medical.

Having the fire department in the neighborhood also helps keep down the rising cost of homeowner’s insurance. “If the fire department wasn’t here the price of insurance would likely skyrocket. That’s assuming you could find insurance at all,” Peters said. “And first responders would be traveling from many miles away.”

If residents vote to approve Measure B, the $85 increase would take effect in the 2022-23 fiscal year. It would raise the annual tax to $170. That fee would still be less than the average amount other districts in the county receive — and well below the average tax paid by metropolitan property owners in the state.

Measure B would give the Long Valley Fire Department about $39,000 a year. The board said that would cover the budget and help to pay for repairs and maintenance to its equipment and the fire house itself, which will soon need a new roof. The firefighters will remain volunteers.

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“We believe the fire department is extremely important to the health and safety of our community,” Board Member Dan McDonald said. “We hope everyone in the neighborhood feels the same way we do.”