Benton Fire District 2 needs citizens to restore a tax levy in next month's primary elections in order to maintain current services, a fire official said.
The levy would collect up to a $1.50 for every $1,000 of the assessed value of a home, Chief Ron Duncan said.
That means the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $150 a year.
The measure replaces the current levy passed by Benton City-area voters six years ago. The maximum levy amount is the same though the district only has been able to collect $1.45 per $1,000.
That's because state initiatives passed by voters limited the amount that taxing districts can collect each year and some junior taxing districts, like the fire district, are not able to collect the full amount approved by voters.
The department also is asking voters to increase the levy lid from 1 percent to 8 percent to give them more flexibility on what money they can collect, according to the Benton County Auditor's Office.
The change means the district is not limited to collecting just a 1 percent increase in property taxes each year. However, it still could only collect the state maximum for fire districts of $1.50 per $1,000.
If passed, the replacement levy would help pay for basic needs and training in the department, Duncan said. The department responds to more than 800 calls a year and serves around 10,000 people in a 130- square-mile area.
"It's imperative to pass this to maintain what we provide today," Duncan said. "This passed with flying colors before. We have good support from our community.
"If you look at it through the years, we have been really good with the taxpayers money," Duncan said. "Most of everything we do is through grants."
The department recently hired extra firefighters through a grant and has at least two members of the department on duty 24 hours a day, Duncan said.
There is a mix of full-time and volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services personnel in the department, Duncan said. The firefighters also are trained in emergency services and to respond to 911 calls.
"If you look at the service levels we have been providing in the last 10 years, we have been able to cut our response time down (by nearly six minutes)," Duncan said. "We have provided better services."
Citizens recently passed an EMS levy to help pay for medical personnel and ambulances, Duncan said. The fire department and EMS funds must be kept separate.
Residents in the district have been supportive of the levy during door-to-door visits by members of the department, Duncan said. He said he is confident citizens will pass the levy.
"We have a great community here," Duncan said. "People have always been supportive of what we do."
The measure needs to get more than 50 percent approval to pass, according to the county auditor's office. Ballots were sent to about 3,600 voters and they must be returned by Aug. 6.