For the third time in the last five years, officials at the North Tooele County Fire District are proposing a tax increase.
The 10 percent hike is expected to generate an additional $68,765 that the district plans to use to hire another full-time firefighter.
If approved, the tax increase would mean property taxes on a $200,000 residence within the fire district would increase from $81.84 to $90.02, or $8.18 per year. Taxes on a $200,000 businesses would rise from $148.80 to $163.68, or $14.88 per year.
In 2011 the fire district raised taxes 14.5 percent, and in 2008 it raised taxes 104 percent.
NTCFD Chief Randy Willden said the fire district is proposing the increase to facilitate the creation of a new full-time firefighter position at an annual salary of about $41,460, bringing the total number of paid firefighters up to four. The department plans to hire two new firefighters in January, he said, but one of the hires would be to fill a position vacated when a firefighter resigned in April. The remainder of the increase would go towards increased maintenance and upkeep costs of the fire engines and buildings, Willden said, and to pay two to three part-time firefighters.
With four firefighters, Willden said, the firefighters could split into two two-firefighter teams, and alternate working a two-day, 14-hour schedule. Each team would work two days and have the subsequent two days off, so the fire station would be covered seven days a week by paid firefighters without having to employ an entire staff. Currently, paid firefighters man the station Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and also take calls in the morning before and evening after their shift when volunteers are going to or coming from work. Based on the days and times of calls logged in over the past few years, Willden said, paid firefighters should be able to be first responders to a significant portion of all calls fielded by the department.
“It will cover 82 to 84 percent of our calls, looking at the last two years, leaving our volunteers with 16 to 18 percent of the calls,” Willden said. “We came up with this schedule to cover the largest number of calls as we can for our budget.”
Willden said volunteer firefighters would still be paged to calls, but that the nearly constant coverage of the station would mean the paid firefighters could respond to scenes more quickly than volunteers coming from home to the station and then out to the incident site. In the case of medical calls, Willden said, they could then start emergency treatment and give immediate care for any patients while waiting for other firefighters and emergency medical technicians to arrive.
“If it’s a cardiac arrest, we can have 10-minute response time to get to the cardiac arrest. If they’re here 14 hours a day, I can have a five-minute response time,” Willden said. “We’re trying to reduce the time from when we get a call to when we get our hands on a patient, and that just equals survivability.”
The district’s 2013 budget and its planned property tax increase will be presented at a public hearing Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Lake Point Fire Station at 1528 Sunset Road. More information can be gained by contacting the North Tooele County Fire District at 882-6730.