Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Introduction to this Blog

Residents and property taxpayers in the Fairview Fire District of Dutchess County, New York, have been angry for many years — many decades, actually — over unusually high fire taxes. At the same time, shortages of both volunteers and money have challenged the Fairview Fire Department to maintain desired level of service in fire and emergency medical responses. Although my wife and I have lived in Fairview for twenty years, we only got involved in fire tax issues a year ago, as described on my companion Fairview Fire Tax website.

I began the Fairview Fire Tax website in June, 2008, because I perceived that there was a dearth of verifiable facts about Fairview's problem. As I began to investigate the issues, I found that the void in understanding was filled with much misinformation. For example, it was widely believed that the reason for Fairview's high fire taxes is that 80 percent of Fairview's market value is tax exempt. My first report showed that the figure was actually only 42 percent for 2008, and not much different in other recent years. See Document #1 at Fairview Fire Tax. So although 42 percent is still high, it's not high enough to explain more than a portion of Fairview's high fire tax. (See Document #12 at Fairview Fire Tax.)

In September and October of 2008, I posted a series of documents showing an unexpected aspect of Fairview's fire tax situation: An apportionment mistake by the Fairview Fire District in violation of New York State real property tax law caused Hyde Park property owners to pay more than their fair share of fire taxes in 2008. The beneficiaries of this mistake were the Poughkeepsie property owners in Fairview, who paid less than their fair share. Other apportionment mistakes, some benefiting Hyde Park over Poughkeepsie, occurred almost every year since 2001. As a result of my investigation, these mistakes are no longer occurring, beginning with 2009. See Document #5 through Document #10 at Fairview Fire Tax.

With these Fairview-specific issues out of the way, it was time to expand my view to fire taxes in all of Dutchess County. (In reality, this is the first thing I looked at, but the last thing I published.) I verified that Fairview has the highest fire tax rate in Dutchess County. In talking with many informed local officials, I found a consensus developing that the most promising long-term solution to Fairview's problems is to consolidate Fairview with other local fire districts. Document #11 at Fairview Fire Tax compares the fire tax rates for all fire districts in Dutchess County, and shows how they might be affected by county-wide consolidation.

Subscribe for Updates to Fairview Fire Tax Website

My plan is to use this blog for relatively short posts on fire tax issues which may be of interest to property taxpayers, residents, and officials of Dutchess County. I'll also post here to announce major updates to my Fairview Fire Tax website. Thus, readers can learn of updates to my Fairview Fire Tax website by subscribing to posts.

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