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No tax rate increase for GVFD

Property owners in Green Valley Fire District will see no tax rate increase for the coming year, although it could happen next year.

In retooling its pay schedule, the fire board has designed a system equitable to all on its workforce to resolve compression that has occurred over the years, which happens when there’s only a small difference in pay between staffers despite their skills or experience.

GVFD’s new model, which officials believe will be sustainable, is based on time employed, pay grade and responsibilities, which could “possibly lead to a small tax increase next fiscal year,” which begins July 1, 2017, board chair Mikel Shilling said. But that won’t be decided until budget talks beginning in early 2017.

Faced with two budget options for this budget round, the board voted 3-2 favoring a $9.4 million overall plan that includes raises for firefighters and engineers but not for staff at captain rank or above. It is based on revenues to be generated by the current tax levy of $2.38 per $100 of assessed valuation, meaning there will be no change in the tax rate.

Personnel is the single biggest expense, accounting for roughly 70 percent of district costs. The approved plan projects the personnel costs at $6,407,879 — $60,289 less than the other, $9.5 million budget option, which would have addressed recommendations from the Green Valley Firefighters Association basically seeking raises for everyone.

“I prefer fixing the total system rather than fragmenting it for two cents,” said Bill Katzel, who with member Bruce Howell voted for the option with the tax increase. “Otherwise we’ll have to come back at this next year.”

Member Tom Allen said the proposal would separate captains based on longevity, who’ve already been feeling the effects of compression, and that the system should be applied across the board.

“I think (the lower-cost plan) is the fairest way to move into a sustainable system,” he said.

Howell, a retired fire service administrator, said he’d also rather not address the matter yearly, noting that there will always be perceived inequities, which is unfortunate, but the district fell behind (over past years) to maintain service and avoid layoffs.

“There are certain political downsides to a tax increase, not to say we wouldn’t have one next year,” he said.

The board terms of three members expire this year; Howell, Shilling and Harry Smith, who is fulfilling a term left vacant midterm. None has officially indicated they’ll run again; the filing period begins July 11.

Kitty Bottemiller | 547-9732