Northwest Rogers County Fire district directors have devised a way to invest $1 million to save property and lives and cut insurance rates without costing residents a penny in increased annual property taxes.
The money would cover buying land so it can build and equip three additional fire stations.
The added locations and trucks would cut response time, substantially cutting ISO ratings and therefore insurance rates in areas served by the new stations.
Getting the full benefits of Northwest fire protection requires that a home or business be five road miles or less from the nearest station, as well as meeting hydrant requirements.
Officials have been studying maps and growth patterns for months to determine where new stations would provide the greatest benefits to the largest number of residents.
Now directors have turned the decision over to voters, who will decide Tuesday, Nov. 12 on whether to increase the ceiling on the district’s indebtedness levy to $1 million, said Fire Chief David Puckett.
If approved, the district’s indebtedness sinking fund levy’s term for paying off the higher debt level would increase to 40 years.
Total property tax levies from all sources for Northwest residents are among the lowest in Rogers County, according to data compiled last November by the Rogers County Assessor’s office. (The comparison does not include residents of cities which provide fire service directly, since cities cannot levy property taxes to fund fire service and depend on other sources of revenue.)
The lowest property tax combination in the county was a total of 95.6 mills for residents of the Verdigris School District who also live in the Verdigris Fire District.
Residents of the Oologah-Talala School District who also live in Northwest paid a total annual levy of 96.86 mills.
The highest rate for Rogers County is paid by residents of the Owasso School District who also live in the Limestone Fire District. They pay a total of 110.53 mills.
“This (indebtedness levy extension) does not raise taxes,” Puckett explained. “It just extends the mill levy of .66 of 1 mill as funds are expended.
“If approved, it will improve firefighting and medical responses to lower insurance rates and serve our patrons better.”
Building the new stations is firm, but the Northwest board will wait until after the election to decide details of the design and equipment to be used.
Puckett said his original plan was to buy an engine and a tanker for each of the new stations.
He now believes a better plan may be buying a combination tanker/pumper for each station. Each of the rigs would have a two-man crew.
“The combination units would reduce fuel, insurance and equipment—about one-half the cost with the same result,” he said.
The proposition facing voters will allow that kind of flexibility. It lets money to be used for land, buildings, equipment and the cost of such things as financing, engineering and legal fees.
It also would allow the board to move money from one category to another if a specific project cost less than expected, as long as total indebtedness did not exceed the $1-million cap.