Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fairview Versus Fairview

I've been meaning to write this frivolous post for a long time. Now's the time. No, it's not a belated April fools joke.

The Fairview Fire District is a small fire district, only a few square miles in size, formed early in the twentieth century. Yet it has a large budget, since it's a predominantly career fire district which provides both fire protection and emergency medical services. Fairview responds to a few thousand alarms per year. Fairview contains many tax exempt properties including a community college and other institutions of learning, a religious hospital facility, town and county government properties, institutions for people with disabilities, and various other not-for-profit organizations. Approximately half of Fairview's market value is tax exempt. As a result of all these factors, Fairview has the highest fire tax rate in the county, and perhaps one of the highest fire tax rates in New York State.

I'm obviously describing the Fairview Fire District in Dutchess County, right? Right?!?

Nope. I fooled you! Although all of the above well describes Fairview in Dutchess, the above narrative just as well describes the Fairview Fire District in Westchester County. That's right, the Town of Greenburgh in Westchester County contains a fire district called the Fairview Fire District. It's just spooky how many similarities there are between the two same-named districts.

Similarities Between the Two Fairviews

Fairview in Dutchess is 4.5 square miles; Fairview in Westchester is 5.5 square miles. Fairview in Dutchess was formed in 1910; Fairview in Westchester was formed in 1927. Both districts have multi-million dollar budgets primarily derived from fire taxes, though both receive some income from Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs). Fairview in Dutchess has approximately 17 career firefighters and about as many volunteer members, responding to about 1,750 alarms each year; Fairview in Westchester has 45 career firefighters and 16 volunteer members, responding to about 2,500 alarms each year.

Fairview in Dutchess contains Dutchess Community College; Fairview in Westchester contains Westchester Community College. Folks, I'm not making this up! Fairview in Dutchess contains St. Francis Hospital; Fairview in Westchester contains the Hebrew Hospital Home. Fairview in Dutchess contains Dutchess County and Town of Poughkeepsie government properties; Fairview in Westchester contains Westchester County and Town of Greenburgh government properties. Fairview in Dutchess contains Greystone Programs; Fairview in Westchester contains a center for retarded adults run by the New York State Division of Mental Health. You get the picture.

The last I looked (2012), 51.7 percent of the market value for Fairview in Dutchess is tax exempt. For Fairview in Westchester, the corresponding figure is “more than 47 percent”.

Now let's get to the fun part — tax rates. You knew I'd get to that eventually. The 2013 true value tax rate for Fairview in Dutchess is $6.70; that for Fairview in Westchester is “only” $4.80. Still, $4.80 is quite a high fire tax rate. One official of Fairview in Westchester believes it is the highest fire tax rate in Westchester County.

Differences Between the Two Fairviews

Fairview in Dutchess has a single firehouse, which is staffed 24x7. Fairview in Westchester has two firehouses, which are staffed on a more limited basis. Fairview in Dutchess spans portions of two towns, Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park; Fairview in Westchester is entirely contained within the Town of Greenburgh. There are undoubtedly other differences between the two Fairviews, but they've been more difficult to find than the similarities. Nope, you just can't make this stuff up.