By GREG EGO

At the beginning of this year, nearly 150 Keizer citizens living in the Clearlake area requested through their respective homeowner associations that Keizer Fire District consider changing Keizer Fire District’s service area boundary to include Clearlake. In response, Keizer Fire District analyzed the impact this change would have on insurance classification ratings, property taxes, fire, emergency and ambulance service for the citizens living in the Clearlake area.

Although Clearlake is currently outside of the Keizer Fire District boundary, Keizer Fire District has been serving the area for 20 years. Keizer Fire District analysts discovered that Clearlake residents have a higher fire insurance rating and pay higher property tax rates than other Keizer residents. With a boundary change, Keizer Fire District can provide the same services that Clearlake is currently receiving at a significantly lower cost to its citizens.

During this period of analysis, Keizer Fire’s provision of ambulance services to Clearlake was unilaterally terminated. This action reduced ambulance revenues for Keizer Fire and impacts all of the citizens of Keizer. The fact that this could occur is the result of the failure to match taxes with service provider, and highlights the need to protect future revenues and services for Keizer.

The conclusion is apparent: It is in the best interest of the citizens of Keizer to change the Clearlake boundary to be within Keizer Fire District.

Our conclusion is supported by the positive impact that would result from a boundary change:

• Reduced property tax rates for Clearlake residents as a result of a significantly lower permanent rate;

• Continuity of service to Clearlake with the remainder of the city, such as police, public safety, education in schools, and Emergency Planning, such as CERT Programs;

• Properly allocates funding for fire, emergency and ambulance services that are already being provided to Clearlake by Keizer Fire District under an unfunded mutual aid agreement; and

• Better insurance classification rating for Clearlake residents, which results in reduced fire insurance rates for homeowners.

While the history of this issue has its own unique twist, the nature of the issue itself is not overwhelmingly complex. It is simply that, with rising budget pressures, the demand for services without funding may have the effect of compromising services to the rest of Keizer, and, Keizer citizens living in Clearlake are paying more than they would for the same service if the jurisdictional boundaries were changed.

Keizer Fire District’s decision to pursue annexation is an acknowledgement of the challenges we face and provides a common-sense approach to overcoming them. We are taking coherent action to support the accomplishment of the guiding policy: Let Keizer serve Keizer.

This change will allow the residents to enjoy the same level of service as the rest of our city at a significantly lower cost, and it will ensure that Keizer Fire District receives funding for the services it provides. By letting Keizer be Keizer, we can remain confident that Keizer Fire District will be able to effectively serve all of Keizer for years to come.

[ “Let Keizer Be Keizer” originated from Keizer Mayor Lore Christopher’s interview with the Statesman Journal, as published on June 3, 2011]

Greg Ego, a member of the Keizer Fire District board, wrote this column on behalf of the board.