Fire district answers some frequently asked questions
The Molalla Fire District Board of Directors wants to give Molalla-area voters all the information they need. To that end, they provide some ansers to frequently asked questions about funding for the Molalla Fire District.
Q: How can Molalla provide emergency services when receiving only one-half to one-third of the tax base of other fire districts?
A: Molalla has highly committed volunteers from within and outside the community who provided 18,000 volunteer man-hours in 2013. Most of our resources go toward emergency response. A smaller proportion is used for district infrastructure. Because of the lack of funds, Molalla does not offer a full fire prevention-public education program or a fire and life safety inspection program. Molalla does not have a dedicated fire marshal or a staffed engine company. These are services and staffing that most other comparably-sized fire districts provide. But Molalla has only one firefighter-paramedic on shift at night and weekends for the ambulance, who must rely on volunteers and students to help staff the ambulance and engine.
Q: How does Molallas staffing compare to other fire departments?
A: A strategic planning process showed comparable fire districts have an average of 17 paid firefighters per day per department, while Molalla has only five paid paramedic/firefighters (Only one of them 24 hours per day). Two of the paramedic firefighters are on duty during business hours 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the district has one fire chief/paramedic and volunteers. Molalla Fire District has an average of 28 volunteer firefighters. On average, only 5 percent (1.4 firefighters) are available during business hours, and only 10 percent (2.8 firefighters) are available at any given time at night or on weekends. Molalla has a student program of three firefighters, but often they are in classes during the daytime and cannot staff ambulances or fire engines. Fire prevention personnel nationally average 2.8 per department, but Molalla has the equivalent of one-quarter of one full-time employee doing fire prevention.
In addition, an occupational safety mandate prohibits firefighters from entering burning buildings, unless at least two firefighters enter as a team with a back-up team of equal size outside. As you can see from the numbers, achieving this mandate is extremely difficult for Molalla.
The district has recognized the need for a minimum of three additional paramedic/firefighter positions, although the funding to do so is not available. This is why the district is asking for an operational levy. We are actively recruiting volunteers and will continue with that effort. No matter what the long-term future holds, and regardless of the career staff we may add, we will still need to be augmented by volunteers. With the expanding call volume, however, the district cannot continue to be as dependent on volunteers as currently is the case.
Q: What does the long term future hold for Molalla Fire District?
A. Molalla is being asked to provide a typical level of service with a less than typical tax base. The expectation of increased services will necessitate the need for increased funding.
Increased funding that is productive will only come from an increase in our tax rate. The mechanism to increase the tax rate is through periodically renewed tax levies. Permit fees, user and other similar types of funding may be used to reduce the amount of tax required, but will not take the place of those taxes. Growth of the community will not generate enough additional tax revenue to maintain the current level and definitely not an increased level of service.
Q: How does Molalla Fire District tax rate compare to other fire districts in Clackamas County?
A: The average base tax rate charged by fire districts in Clackamas County with bonds and levies added to their tax rate, the average is $2.20 per thousand assessed value.
But Molalla Fire Districts tax rate for fire protection is 78 cents per thousand assessed value.
This has affected Molalla Fire Districts ability to keep insurance premiums and the insurance institute rating system low and our ability to respond to emergencies.