Tuesday, November 10, 2015

WATCH: "Arizona Fire Districts Are In Crisis"; $55K Ad Campaign To Remove Taxing Caps

(UPDATE, 11/11 at 9:20am: If you watched the GOP Presidential debate(s), you likely saw that the ad ran several times during it. Cable providers do have to keep political files that are similar to broadcast stations; however, they do not have the same FCC requirements to make them available online. Arizona's Politics does not have the resources to visit them regularly to view their files, and is attempting to work with the major cable providers to make that information available to our readers. If you support that effort, please let both us and the cable providers know.)

Painting a desperate picture of fires running wild in Arizona, the state's 156 Fire Districts are beginning a $55,000 targeted TV ad campaign tomorrow to lobby state lawmakers to remove taxing caps. The ad paints a picture of Their proposal would eliminate some of the need for budget override elections.

Fire districts are mostly rural service districts - though some encompass municipalities - formed under state law. Similar to school districts and other special districts, Arizona law caps how much tax revenue they can raise without going to voters for a budget override or bond election.

The Arizona Fire District Association - which derives most of its budget by charging the taxpayer-financed fire districts membership dues and conference fees - has produced an ad that will begin running on Phoenix TV stations during local news times.

The ad goes right after viewers' basic fears of fire and support for first responders:
"Firefighters and paramedics laid off. Fire stations closed. Public safety budgets slashed. 9-1-1 response times soaring. Arizona Fire Districts are in crisis."
Viewers are urged to contact "the Legislature" to support their measure.

Lawmakers have not yet begun filing bills for the 2016 session, though it is the right time to be getting them ready.

The AFDA notes that 40 of their 156 members are currently at the state cap of $3.25 (on $100 of property's assessed valuation), and that they have had to close fire stations and cut staff as response times "have increased in many districts." It was not immediately apparent how many of those districts have attempted override elections, although Maricopa County has not had any since 2012.

Their cap relief measure would leave in place the 8% annual increase limit on tax levies, which they say will prevent wild increases without an election.

The AFDA receives nearly all of its revenue from taxpayers, through the fire districts.

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