Voters in the Northwest Rogers County Fire district will decide starting today whether to approve a plan to invest $1 million which district officials say will protect property and lives and cut insurance rates without raising property taxes.
Due to a change in state law, early voting on the fire district proposition will begin today (Thursday, Nov. 7) and Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Rogers County Election Board office, 415 W. First in Claremore.
There will be no early voting Monday, but all regular polling places serving residents of the district will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 12).
Only registered voters who are residents of the fire district may vote in the election. The proposition will be the only item on the ballot.
The money generated would cover building and equipping three additional fire stations.
The added locations and trucks would cut response time, substantially cutting ISO ratings and therefore insurance rates for the areas served by the new stations.
Getting the insurance rate benefits of Northwest fire protection requires that a home or business be within five road miles of the nearest station, as well as meeting hydrant requirements.
Officials studied maps and growth patterns for months to determine where new stations would provide the greatest benefits to the largest number of residents.
Northwest directors decided last summer to take the issue to voters, who specifically will be asked to decide whether to increase the ceiling on the district’s indebtedness levy to $1 million, said Fire Chief David Puckett.
If approved, the 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 inRogersCounty, 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 theVerdigrisSchool Districtwho also live in the Verdigris Fire District.
Residents of theOologah-TalalaSchool Districtwho also live in Northwest paid a total annual levy of 96.86 mills.
The highest rate forRogersCountyis paid by residents of theOwassoSchool Districtwho 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 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 costs less than expected, as long as total indebtedness does not exceed the $1-million cap.
There has been no public organized opposition to the proposition.