STUDY: How much does fighting fires in Ontario Co. cost taxpayers?

The goal was to learn more about fire service in Ontario County.

The Ontario County Values, Inc. or OCVI, an independent and not-for-profit corporation was formed to compare the costs of local government services in Ontario County.

The results have been released. As expected there are disparities throughout Ontario County — when it comes to actual cost for fire services.

Some of the highlights released by the OCVI:

— The highest fire tax rates, per $1,000 of assessed valuation, are $7.46 (City of Geneva), $4.94 (Hall Fire District), and $3.00 (Ionia Fire Protection District in West Bloomfield).

— The lowest fire tax rates per $1,000 of assessed valuation are minus (i.e. profitable) $1.97 (Village of Rushville – Ontario County part), minus (i.e. profitable) $0.70 (Village of Manchester), and $0.08 (East Bloomfield Fire Protection District in Town of Canandaigua).

— The highest average costs of fire service per property assessed are $935.25 (Fishers Fire Protection District), $832.10 (Hall Fire District), and $614.13 (City of Geneva).

— The lowest average costs of fire service per property assessed are minus $161.49 (Village of Rushville – Ontario County part), minus $73.60 (Village of Manchester), and $21.08 (East Bloomfield Fire Protection District in Town of Canandaigua.

— The average cost of fire service per property assessed in Fire Districts ($396.96) is more than 3 times higher than the average cost in Fire Protection Districts ($125.98).

“Most fire services in Ontario County are funded by property taxes and although fire services are not the largest part of a typical property tax bill, they can be significant and they can vary widely,” said OCVI co-founder Francis Coleman, noting OCVI seeks to shed light on the provision of facilities, equipment and resources while applauding both paid and volunteer firefighters for their work.

Co-founder Bill Compton said the OCVI advisory board believes the “Fire Service Figures” study and future updates will help local governments and taxpayers seek meaningful, cost-effective, equitable ways to support our firefighters and taxpayers.” “Additionally, it may help to simplify any unnecessarily complex arrangements for fire service across the county,” he said.

Compton lives in the Town of East Bloomfield and is a professional construction cost estimator (retired). He is a past Councilman, Town Supervisor, Chairman of the Ontario Board of Supervisors and town Assessor. Mr. Coleman lives in the Village of Bloomfield where he served as a Village Trustee after careers in aerospace engineering and telecommunications and internet law.

OCVI’s nonprofit advisory board also includes retired director of Ontario County Real Property Tax Services George Herren, retired Ontario County administrator John Hicks and Canandaigua Mayor Ellen Polimeni. According to Coleman and Compton, OCVI’s studies are conducted on a non-partisan basis, without advocacy, using publicly available information. They note they do not accept funding from those who are the subjects of the studies and intend to update the studies annually.

“New York State’s high state and local taxes have made it a discouraging environment for the private sector”, said Coleman; “Other states are competing with us for investment and talent. Too often, the goose that used to lay its golden eggs here is now nesting elsewhere.”

“Our question is, ‘Is there a better way to organize local governments, so as to encourage private sector growth without diminishing local government services?’” said Compton. “An important part of the answer to this question lies in providing local governments and taxpayers with ‘bench mark’ studies that show how different the levels of local taxes and charges are for various services throughout Ontario County.”

Read the entire report here

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