Three fire districts in Pima County are turning to voters in the Nov. 7 general election in hopes they support a bond proposal, a budget override and a levy override to maintain services and equipment. One district also plans to do renovations at its stations. The elections are being conducting by mail-in ballot only.
Drexel Heights Fire District
The Drexel Heights governing board is requesting to sell $8 million in general obligation bonds for projects including the construction of an administration and training facility, a new fire station, and the remodeling of a second station. It also is seeking to replace two pumper trucks.
Fire Chief Douglas Chappell said the two stations slated for replacement or renovations are “in need of safety-related enhancements to protect the firefighters who live in the stations 24 hours a day.”
The district also needs adequate training facilities for firefighters to continue to refine their knowledge and skills, said Chappell. He also said the district needs to replace its aging fleet.
If Proposition 459 passes, the interest rate for the bonds would not exceed 7 percent per year and be paid off in 20 years. The cost to each property owner would be about 34 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, or about $30 a year for an average home in the district, said Chappell.
Drexel Heights’ annual operating budget is about $10 million and it employs 81 firefighters and five civilian workers.
The district covers 60 square miles and has about 50,000 residents. The boundaries roughly are the Tucson Mountains on the north and the Tohono O’odham Nation on the south, and South Mission Road on the east to West Valencia Road where it dead ends at Ajo Highway on the west.
Picture Rocks Fire & Medical District
The Picture Rocks board of directors is asking for a temporary budget override for five years that would bring in about $80,000 annually to maintain services and fire trucks.
“We are bringing in 40 percent less in revenue a year than we were before the home market started to crash. It hit us in 2012,” said Fire Chief Brett Lane. “We have kept our fire trucks for 25 years while most departments only keep their trucks for five years.”
In the past five years, the district has received $3 million in grants, which have helped maintain services, Lane said. He said the district has a fleet of 15 vehicles, which includes fire engines, ambulances and water tankers.
If Proposition 460 passes, it will allow for the annual levies to be not more than $3.50 per $100 of assessed valuation starting with the 2018 tax year through the 2022 tax year. The cost to each property owner, on average, would be an increase of about $6 a year in secondary tax, said Lane.
Picture Rocks’ annual operating budget is $1.8 million and the district employs 22 firefighters and two civilian workers.
The district covers 100 square miles and has 10,000 residents. The boundaries roughly are West Avra Valley Road on the north to West Mile Wide Road on the south, and Saguaro National Park on the east to North Avra Road on the west.
Avra Valley Fire District
The Avra Valley governing board is requesting to adopt a temporary levy override for five years to generate about $120,000 annually for the district to maintain firefighter jobs, its vehicles and to purchase medical equipment and safety gear.
“We are running out of options,” said Fire Chief Brian Delfs, explaining that the district seeks grants now to help pay for services.
“Our property values are down, and we are surviving off the same revenues of 2008 when the state Legislature capped our tax rate at $3.25 per $100 of assessed valuation,” explained Delfs. “The Legislature capped the tax rate before the 2008 property market value crashed. This is really hurting the smaller fire districts,” he said.
If voters approve Proposition 461, the secondary property tax rate limit would increase up to $3.50 per $100 of assessed valuation. The cost to the average homeowner would be an increase of $21 a year, said Delfs.
Avra Valley’s annual operating budget is $3.9 million and it employs 42 firefighters and two civilian workers.
The district, which extends into Pinal County, covers 325 square miles and has about 12,000 residents. The boundaries roughly are Picacho Peak on the north to West Manville Road on the south, and the Tucson Mountains on the east to the Tohono O’odham Nation on the west. In Pinal County, coverage includes 125 square miles that are east and west of Interstate 10.