An eleventh hour effort is underway in the legislature to rescue Iowa’s more than 1,800 rural fire protection districts with the ability to levey for more funding. The House is considering a bill to require townships to levy anywhere from 40 to 80 cents for every $1,000 worth of property to fund firefighting. Currently, townships can levy no more than 60 cents.
Representative Tom Schueller, a Democrat from Maquoketa, says towns typically levy far more than that. Schueller says the problem is that fighting a rural fire costs more than a fire in the city. Schueller says it takes more equipment to get water to fight rural fires.
"Nine times out of ten you have to haul in water. Unless that farmer has giant reservoir or a pond, you still have to haul in that tanker truck no matter what," Schueller says. A three member panel studying the bill heard tales of struggling all volunteer departments with aging equipment.
Representative Doug Struyk, a Republican from Council Bluffs, says he’s worried how the increase would be seen. Struyk says he’s been around enough elections to know that this wouldn’t be viewed as a 40 cent increase or a $37 increase, but it would be viewed as a 100 percent increase in the levy.
Struyck says he sees the need for the increase but wants to think about it a little bit. For homeowners the change would mean on average a $37 increase in taxes per $100,000 assessed valuation on a home. The Iowa Firefighters Association is pushing for the law.