Garberville FPD has submitted an application for annexation of the District’s approximately 36,000 acre out-of-district good-will response area that includes the Benbow, Garberville Airport/Kimtu Meadows, Bear Canyon, Alderpoint Road, and South U.S. 101/Richardson Grove areas and the Sprowel Creek Volunteer Fire Response Area, and consolidating operations with the Sprowel Creek Volunteer Fire Company. The annexation application also includes: (1) a property tax exchange agreement with Humboldt County for the annexation area, whereby the County would shift property tax base and growth generally equivalent with the current Garberville FPD property tax allocation; and (2) a proposed Special Tax as a means to establish a dependable long-term source of revenue for community fire protection services.
Humboldt LAFCo approved the proposal at the July 20th, 2022 Regular Commission Meeting. The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved LAFCo’s request to call for an election at the October 25, 2022 regular meeting.
The Special Tax was approved by voters on March 7, 2023 with 78.51% “yes” votes.
Reasons for Proposal
The reason for the proposal is to make possible a proactive, sustainable solution for future fire and emergency service needs by creating a regional district, with an improved economy of scale and associated benefits. The proposed annexation would officially merge operations with the Sprowel Creek Volunteer Fire Company (SCVFC), making Sprowel Creek a new battalion of the GFPD. In addition, the new revenue generated by this annexation would begin the process of establishing a new battalion in the Benbow area. Initially this would mean firefighters would be recruited and trained from the Benbow area, and a fire engine may be strategically placed at a residence or other location to allow a quicker response to Benbow incidents. The ultimate goal will be to construct a fire station in Benbow after sufficient revenue is accumulated, an appropriate site is selected, and environmental review completed.
Proposed District Boundary
The boundaries of the proposed GFPD Annexation area are indicated on the map contained in Exhibit 1. The proposed annexation consists of approximately 36,000 acres of GFPD’s existing out-of-district good-will response area that includes the Benbow, Garberville Airport/Kimtu Meadows, Bear Canyon, Alderpoint Road, and South U.S. 101/Richardson Grove areas and the SCVFC Response Area.
Proposed Special Tax
A new revenue source will be required to support the GFPD’s ability to build and sustain adequate community fire and rescue services for the entire area they are currently being called upon to cover. A voter-approved special tax that would generate approximately $150,000 per year and would be apportioned to property based on the use of property in the following manner:
- Vacant property of any type would pay $25 per Assessor parcel per year;
- Single family homes within a hydranted area would pay $100 per parcel per year;
- Single family homes not served by hydrants would require a greater response, including water tenders, would pay $150 per parcel per year;
- Multiple family dwellings would pay between $200 and $450 per parcel per year depending upon the number of housing units;
- General commercial properties would pay $300 per parcel per year; and
- Hotels and motels would pay between $300 and $750 per parcel per year based on the number of rooms.
The special tax would be levied annually on parcels within the existing district and proposed annexation area for an indefinite term (no sunset) and would be collected as part of the annual property tax bill and deposited in a fund for the sole use of the district (nominal processing and administration fees may be charged by the County). The special tax would include the following additional provisions:
- Inflationary Adjustment. In each subsequent year and as part of a duly noticed public hearing, the District Board may choose to adopt an inflation adjustment factor to increase the maximum special tax rate by an amount equal to the annual change, if any, in the Consumer Price Index of the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose area, up to a maximum increase of five percent. An inflationary adjustment may be applied annually to account for normal cost of living increases in providing fire services. This factor is the maximum that the special tax could be raised in a fiscal year. The District Board can adopt a lower adjustment factor or forgo the adjustment at the Board’s discretion.
Property Tax Exchange
GFPD also seeks an exchange of property tax revenue from Humboldt County pursuant to an action by the Board of Supervisors on May 9, 2019, which identified different tax exchange agreements that may be offered to fire districts depending on which of a set of expectations fire districts were willing and able to meet. GFPD’s proposed annexation and merger with SCVFC would be eligible for tax exchange agreement Offer #1, whereby Humboldt County would transfer a portion of the county’s share of the base property tax revenue to the fire district equal to 75% of the district’s average tax allocation factor (TAF), multiplied by the 1% property tax revenue for the current year within the annexation area. In addition, GFPD would receive 100% of its TAF applied to growth in property tax in the annexation area. A draft property tax exchange agreement was approved by the GFPD Board and the Chair of the Board is authorized to execute an agreement that is substantially similar.
Terms and Conditions
The resolution by GFPD Board included the following requested terms and conditions:
- An agreement regarding the exchange of ad valorem property tax pursuant to tax exchange agreement offer number 1 authorized by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on April 9, 2019, is executed by and between the GFPD Board of Directors and the County of Humboldt; and
- Approval of a special tax, consistent with the Draft Special Tax Ordinance approved by the GFPD Board on Directors on June 8, 2022, to sustain and improve fire protection services by the registered voters of the current GFPD boundaries and proposed annexation area.