The Aurora Fire District is asking the public to renew and increase a five-year local option tax levy for career firefighter staffing and operations. The proposed levy would be for 99 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which would replace the current rate of 49 cents per $1,000. The district board of directors says the funds are needed to maintain the current staff of four career EMT/firefighters and hire additional ones for emergencies.
For the first time in its history, this levy would allow Aurora Fire to respond to calls 24 hours a day with career EMT/firefighters. The district responds to over 1,000 calls each year, which they say is a stretch for their current resources.
“Most of our calls for service occur when there are no career staff on duty,” Aurora Fire Chief Joshua Williams said in a letter submitted to the county elections office explaining the proposal. “Currently, there are only four career employees on duty Monday through Friday during regular business hours. Once the business office has closed, volunteers and students are the primary emergency responders.”
As in the past, Aurora Fire does rely on volunteers to bridge this funding gap, but the district says that time commitments and other demands have reached a point where it is difficult to recruit and maintain volunteer firefighters. Funds from the levy would also be used to bolster this aspect of the district’s service, paying for repairs, upgraded emergency equipment and enhancements to the current student and volunteer program.
“If you or your loved one experience a cardiac event, car crash or major emergency, a fire engine without a career EMT/firefighter in charge is likely to respond,” Williams said. “If your home is on fire, national mandates prohibit us from entering to extinguish the fire until a minimum of four firefighters are on scene. Between volunteers, students and career staff, the levy will allow us to quickly meet these standards and provide better service to the community.”
The district estimates the proposed levy, if approved, would raise just shy of $1 million each year, for a total of approximately $4.9 million in the span of five years. If the measure fails, Williams said the district’s budget would be reduced by 42 percent, making the current level of operations unsustainable.
“We would have to delay needed repairs, the purchasing of vital equipment and possibly reduce our current staff and student program,” Williams said. “The priority of AFD will always be to serve our district and maintain timely emergency responses. However, without this levy, it would become increasingly difficult, if not impossible.”
The district has scheduled three Q&As to discuss the proposed tax levy. They will be held:
- Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-7:30 p.m., at the Donald station, 20909 Feller St.
- Tuesday, April 23, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Aurora station, 21390 Main St.
- Wednesday, May 1, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Donald station, 20909 Feller St.
Other issues before Canby-area voters in the May 21 special election will be the election of new board members for the Canby School District and Canby Fire District.
For CSD, there will be a three-way race for one seat between Dawn Depner, Angie Miles and Art Marine. Incumbent Andrea Weber is running but will face opposition from newcomer Stefani Carlson. Incumbent Rob Sheveland is running for re-election unopposed.
For Canby Fire, Shawn P. Carroll and Dick Griffin will vie to replace outgoing member Jim Mickelsen. Incumbents Boe Ellis and Ron Swor are both running for another term unopposed.
Photo courtesy the Aurora Fire District.