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North Bannock Fire District anticipates levy vote

May 1, 2019

An official with the North Bannock Fire District said the taxing entity will likely ask district voters on the November election ballot to consider increasing their tax levy rate to the maximum amount allowed.

The district contracts with the city of Chubbuck to provide fire protection, inspection and education services in many of the unincorporated areas surrounding Pocatello and Chubbuck.

Chubbuck officials intend to let that contract expire on Oct. 1, wishing to focus their limited resources on their own taxpayers.

The county estimates the current levy, which amounts to about $54 for $100,000 of home value, factoring in the home owner’s exemption, generates roughly $150,000 per year. At the maximum rate, that amount would increase to about $240 per $100,000 in home value, with the exemption. Increasing the levy amount will require a two-thirds majority vote.

“It’s going to impact a lot of people financially pretty heavily,” said Steve Klauser, the district’s treasurer.

Klauser said the district is negotiating with Chubbuck to save the agreement and has also made proposals to the Pocatello and Fort Hall fire departments. However, he said offers are far too high, and the only option may be for the district to form its own volunteer fire department.

He said Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England’s most recent offer is not affordable for the district, but he’s encouraged that England has now responded twice with counter offers and seems willing to negotiate further.

The district hosted a public meeting about a week ago, which was attended by roughly 200 people. Though he wasn’t available to attend the meeting, Klauser has heard several people offered to aid the district as volunteers if a new department must be created.

Furthermore, he said an insurance agent assured homeowners that if there were to be a lapse in coverage, their properties would still be insured, although they’d have to pay premiums based on the highest fire risk rating.

Klauser acknowledges getting voters to approve such a lofty levy increase will be a tall hurdle to clear. Even if it passes, he said it will take a year for the extra funding to be collected and turned over to the district. He said the district has been negotiating with the city of Chubbuck

According to the county, the district may also collect up to $15,000 in “foregone” tax revenue it could have collected in the past but didn’t, and no public vote will be required to tap that revenue.

Klauser said that foregone revenue would be important in helping the district bridge the gap until it can collect the additional revenue, or to make equipment purchases to start a new fire department even if the levy increase fails in November.

“If it does fail, we’ll still need to be prepared to form our own fire district,” Klauser said.

If the vote fails, Klauser said the district will simply make its purchases more slowly, and though it wouldn’t be in the same position to respond to emergencies as it would with the maximum levy amount, he noted something is better than nothing.

The good news, Klauser said, is that the majority of people in attendance at the meeting reported to fire district officials that they support raising the levy.