Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Big Three Fire Districts of Dutchess County

Of the 30 fire districts and fire protection districts in Dutchess County, I call the Arlington, LaGrange, and Fairview fire districts the big three fire districts. They are the big three in two different ways:
  • They have the three highest tax levies.
  • They have the three highest tax rates.
I've just posted a report to my sister website Fairview Fire Tax about the big three.  This report compiles current and retrospective information about tax levies, tax rates, market values, and exempt percents for the big three fire districts into a series of 24 bar charts, 8 tables, and 4 pie charts, with analytical commentary.  Bar charts include a ten-year history of market values, tax levies, and tax rates, and annual changes in these values.  Some highlights of the report:
  • Fairview has the highest fire tax rate in Dutchess County.  However, if fire taxes were billed universally – to tax exempt as well as to taxable properties – Arlington would have the highest universal tax rate, with Fairview second.  Economies of scale should have favored Arlington’s universal tax rate, since Arlington is four times larger than Fairview, both in total market value and number of fire stations.  Yet Arlington’s universal fire tax rate is 30 percent greater than Fairview’s.
  • From 2001 to 2008, the tax rates of all the big three fire districts have decreased.  With the economic meltdown, 2009 and 2010 tax rates in Arlington and LaGrange (but not Fairview) have significantly increased. In 2008, Fairview’s tax rate was 61 percent larger than Arlington’s, but in 2010, Fairview’s tax rate has become only 20 percent larger than Arlington’s.
  • Nearly half of Fairview’s market value is tax exempt. Fairview’s exempt percent has been 47.7 percent plus or minus 0.2 percent in each of the last three years, when adjustment is made for a 2008 tax assessment blunder by the Town of Poughkeepsie Assessor's office.
  • If the City of Poughkeepsie’s fire department were a fire district, it would be in the Big Three, both for its equivalent tax levy and its equivalent tax rate.
The big three are high priced fire districts.   But high priced fire districts also tend to be high quality-of-service fire districts.

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