The Sni Valley Fire Protection District got knocked down in Tuesday’s election. Now, it’s gathering itself again and trying to figure out how to carry on.
Sni Valley sought to increase its operating tax levy by $0.09 per $100 of assessed valuation for each of the next three years, but the issue got voted down by a 542-370 margin (59.4 percent no votes).
Elsewhere in Eastern Jackson County, the Fort Osage Fire Protection District’s ballot issue passed with flying colors, as voters approved the sale of $3.5 million in general obligation bonds for capital improvements by a 626-273 margin (69.3 percent yes votes).
The Sni-Valley District had hoped to use an increase in tax funds to boost staffing, better compensate its full-timers and provide more training. Fire Chief Troy Negrete said he was a bit surprised about the margin of defeat.
“I thought we would do better,” he said after a Wednesday full of meetings. “We just have to regroup and pretty much start over.
“You’re kind of judged on how you get back up after you fall. That’s where your character’s figured out. The reasons it was on the ballot, those don’t go away. The shortcomings of the budget are still there.”
Sni-Valley’s current tax rate is 83 cents per $100 in valuation, which Negrete said is the lowest in the area. Fort Osage’s levy is $1.6724; Central Jackson County’s levy is $1.12.
With only five people on duty at a time now, the district can be hamstrung if multiple response calls come in, Negrete said before the election. Since 2006, the district has handled 400 more calls per year than it did that year.
The district has grown in population, “and we need to grow along with the community,” he said.
Negrete said it will be up to the board of directors to decide whether to try another levy measure on the ballot, but he can see another request to the voters.
“I believe it’s their thought to try it again,” he said, “but I don’t know when or how much it will be.”
Fort Osage Fire Chief John Yokum said his department has always received a lot of support from the community, but added he was pleasantly surprised how much support it gained compared to the last ballot request a few years ago.
“On behalf of myself, the board of directors and our personnel, I would like to thank the citizens for continued support and trust to provide their resources in a time of need,” Yokum said.
Yokum pointed to replacing the self-contained breathing apparatus (the air tanks) and replacing two fire trucks that are from 1988 and 1997 and two ambulances as the most pressing needs for his district, along with new communications equipment that provides wider radio coverage within the federal narrow band mandate and some facility upgrades.
“We try very hard to be very fiscally responsible stewards of citizens’ dollars,” Yokum said, “to do it most cost-efficient way.”