After a possible tax levy increase failed in the November election, the Mid County Fire Protection district is having to go back to the drawing board. District board members are planning on meeting during a Saturday work session in hopes of balancing the upcoming year's budget. Discussions will focus on the dilemma the district faces to protect public safety while struggling to balance a budget and what services could be impacted.
When the ballot issue did not pass, Chief Scott Frandsen told the Lake Sun, "Now we begin the process of determining what needs to be cut."
Voters said no to a 12 cent levy increase for the Mid County Fire Protection District as they handily defeated the proposition by nearly a two to one margin. The increase failed by a margin of 310 ballots, with 646 ballots being cast against the issue and 336 votes in favor of the levy increase.
Voter turnout was light, with less than 11 percent of the fire districts registered voters casting a ballot. Of the 9191 registered voters, 982 voted.
The defeat of the tax levy increase sent a clear message to the district's board that voters are not willing to pay more for fire service.
The vote in November marks the fourth time since 2007 voters have said no to a levy increase for fire protection.
MCFPD officials say the costs of providing fire protection are on the rise, forcing the use of reserve funds to keep pace with the demands of the district.
According to Mid County Fire Protection District board president Charles McElyea, the current operating levy has not been increased by the voters since the district was formed in 1986. Because of increased costs of operations, the district has had to utilize reserve funds last year and will have to use reserve funds again this year.
Over the last three years, the district has made cuts in its operating cost to the extent that future cuts would greatly affect the services that the district is providing and is required to be provided to the residents, according to Frandsen.
Board members do not get paid and do their job on a volunteer basis. All board members have agreed to a Saturday workshop beginning at Station One at 8 a.m. on Dec. 7.
"I would like to come out of it with a balanced budget for next year. We will need to figure out how to balance it," McElyea said. "I do not want to close stations or sell equipment but those are things we will have to look at."
For the board, the choice to meet on a Saturday was a simple one — no distractions.
"The financial condition this district is in makes it imperative that we take a hard look at things. We thought there would be less distractions on a Saturday morning during a work session than at a normal board meeting," McElyea added.
Page 2 of 2 - The board hopes to come to a decision on how to balance the budget by its next regularly scheduled board meeting set for Dec. 12.