I am responding to Mr. Triplett’s letter to the editor published Dec. 16 (“Hermiston fire bond would put tax burden on rural residents”). I would like to state some facts relating to the May ballot measures that would combine the Hermiston and Stanfield fire districts into one new district called the Umatilla County Fire District Number 1.
The Hermiston Fire District is not a city department, nor is it funded or managed by the city. Fire protection and emergency ambulance care in the city and surrounding area is provided by the Hermiston Rural Fire Protection District, a local taxing entity that is fully independent of the city of Hermiston. All residents within the district (including those inside the city) are provided the same services by the district.
Oregon law requires all cities within a proposed new district give their permission to put the measure on the ballot. That is what the Hermiston City Council did on Monday night when they passed the resolution. Stanfield City Council did so earlier this month.
Regarding the tax burden of the new district, all residents within the current fire districts are assessed the same rate per $1,000 to fund the fire district’s activities.
The new district would require additional funding and it is true that property owners within the city limits would generally not see an increase in their tax burden while those outside the city limits (rural) would. This inequity is the result of tax limitation measures passed by Oregon voters in the early 1990s and the fact that most rural property owners currently pay less than their city counterparts. It is important to note that combining the two departments at the new tax rate would increase staffing and the rural residents that would see the greatest benefits.
Combining the two existing fire districts into one new district will allow our citizens, both city and rural, to continue to receive the exceptional emergency services we have all come to expect.
Chief Scott Stanton and I would be happy to meet with Mr. Triplett or any other citizen who has questions or concerns about combining the two fire districts.
We can both be contacted through the Hermiston Fire District main station at 541-567-8822.
Pat Hart, fire chief (ret.)