It’s up to the Crooked River Ranch Rural Fire Protection District to provide fire and ambulance services to the 5,000 or so ranch residents, who, in turn, supply operating money for the district with their property taxes. Voters there will be asked in November to approve a five-year local option levy of 89 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value. They should do so.
The levy is 20 cents more per $1,000 than the first one, approved 10 years ago. Fire Chief Henry Ward makes a strong case for the increase. Calls have increased in the last couple of years, with 73 more calls in 2017 than in the previous year.
Costs have risen in the last 10 years, he notes. Public Employees Retirement System payments are up and will continue to increase, an expense over which the district has no control. The district has six paid staff members and 20 or so volunteers.
Ward says the district is trying to be careful with the money it already has. It tries to stretch the life of equipment. But some should be replaced. Its heart monitors, for example, are over 10 years old and the district hopes to replace them in the next couple of years. It also hopes to replace its oldest ambulance sometime soon, and new ambulances can cost between $170,000 and $200,000.
If the levy fails, the district is faced with unpleasant choices. It can try again to get a levy approved, though it likely would be for less money. That, in turn, means it must hang on to equipment longer.
The levy will cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $40 more per year than the current levy does, a small price to pay for the up-to-date equipment that’s needed to ensure the job gets done as well and as quickly as possible.