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Davis Journal

South Davis Metro Fire proposes tax increase

Aug 12, 2021 10:51AM ● By Becky Ginos

SDMF Chief Dane Stone (second from left) speaks at the Truth in Taxation hearing. The South Davis District board listened to public comment before making a decision Aug. 16.

BOUNTIFUL—Several residents spoke against a proposed property tax increase for the South Davis Metro Fire Service Area during a Truth in Taxation hearing last week. The proposal would raise taxes from $67.55 per year to $144.93 on a $425,000 home.

“Does it have to be such a big leap?” said one woman.

“My property tax went up $400 because you want some and everybody wants some,” said another resident. “There are a lot of older people in the county who can’t afford $400. I’ve never seen this go any way other than up.”

“I love this department,” said Tom Hardy, a former city manager who served on the South Davis District board. “Before most of you were born I had a set of turnout gear. I have an affinity for the fire service and an affinity for the taxpayers. I think you’re asking for a little more than is needed. I appreciate the work you do. I’m glad I’m not on that side anymore.” 

The increase would help fund paramedic services that are being transferred from the Davis County Sheriff’s Office. “In 2013 we added three units,” said SDMF Chief Dane Stone. “This will completely fund those paramedic units. The Davis County Sheriff’s Office runs the majority of Davis County with the exception of Layton and South Davis. The county will do away with that levy and it comes to us now directly.”

“We need to provide more services,” said County Commissioner Bob Stevenson. “This is one thing the program will do. The county will keep the (current) paramedics employed so no one will lose their jobs during the process. It’s complicated but when all is said and done it will increase coverage. When we need help we don’t care who comes and saves us, we just want help when we call.”

A $9.4 million bond in 2017 funded the new Centerville fire station, the remodel of the Mueller Park station and a new ladder truck, Stone said. “Our 20 year capital improvement plan includes replacement of equipment and apparatus. The increased tax will help with that. An apparatus costs $650,000 and an ambulance is $250,000.”

The equipment also has to be suited to climbing the steep grades on the east side. “Some areas have a 12 percent grade,” he said. “When you’re carrying 500 gallons of water and equipment it’s heavy getting up those grades.”

The property tax will also cover 21 percent of salaries, Stone said. “That includes health insurance coverage, etc. We want to keep our firefighters here so this isn’t just a stepping stone. We want enough people to keep our fire engines and ambulances staffed. It’s better and easier to incorporate into salaries – it’s not a salary increase.”

“We don’t want an average fire department,” said Bountiful Mayor Randy Lewis. “We want the most qualified people in those jobs. They literally saved homes in the Gun Range fire. A 25 cent a day increase in our firefighters can make the difference of two minutes in response time. Two minutes saves lives. That may not mean a lot until it’s your family.”

There are 110,000 people in this fire district, Lewis said. “We’re not just looking up the road, we’re looking up stream. This is a moving event.”

The board will vote on the proposal at their Aug. 16 meeting.