Missoula Rural Fire officials tell NBC Montana that the district’s Board of Trustees has unanimously agreed to submit a measure on a May 6 ballot that would increase the district’s mill levy by 10.04 mills. That means the district would raise roughly $440,766 a year.
A homeowner with a $100,000 property would see their taxes increase by roughly $13.
Missoula Rural Fire Chief Bill Colwell says the money would be used to retain the employment of six EMT-firefighters hired in 2012 with a federal grant. The grant is a 2-year program that comes to an end on September 30.
“It's essential to arrive at the scene in a timely fashion and also to arrive at the scene of an emergency with enough people to do intervention on the initial arrival,” said Colwell.
The Missoula Rural Fire District operates as a mixture of volunteer and career firefighters.
“Part of what this mill levy does is maintain in my outlying stations that I have two people on duty during those peak call hours, and then in the evening it guarantees I have one career person on duty,” said Colwell.
Not everyone in the district’s coverage area may be up for the increased taxes. In 2007, voters rejected an attempt at a mill levy increase. Fire officials attribute the rejection partly due to economic hardships in the community.
“The second time we ran it the community, the country had gone through significant financial downfall, and that time we lost by a significant amount,” said Colwell.
Colwell says if the new mill levy increase does not pass, the District will need to reduce the number of career EMT-firefighters at every one of the district’s stations. That would include Station 1 on South Ave West in Missoula.
District voters last approved a mill levy increase in 1992.