TVF&R voters to decide Newberg annexations
Voters in the entire Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue district, which extends into three counties, will decide the fate of already-approved annexations of Newberg and the surrounding rural area.
The election is Tuesday, March 13. Ballots must be in the hands of elections officials by 8 p.m.
Most of those served by TVF&R are in Washington County east of Hillsboro, including cities and urban unincorporated communities. TVF&R extends into northwest Multnomah County outside Portland, and into West Linn, Wilsonville and the Stafford Triangle in Clackamas County.
Last year TVF&R responded to about 49,000 calls, up 13 percent from the previous year. From 2012 to 2016, the overall increase was 33 percent.
After 18 months of contracting with TVF&R, beginning in mid-2016, Newberg voters approved an annexation on Nov. 7 by a 69 percent majority, and rural fire protection district voters by 63 percent.
But as Washington County commissioners were set to approve both annexations on Dec. 19, they received petitions bearing the legal minimum of 100 signatures — the actual number was around 200 each — to force a district-wide election.
Eric Winters, a Wilsonville lawyer, said the petitioners were following procedures outlined by county officials. District officials argued that the petitions offered insufficient justification for it. But county commissioners, based on their counsel's advice, decided to order the election.
The election will cost the district an estimated $300,000.
TVF&R Board President Clark Balfour said he has heard of no organized opposition to Measure 34-280 (Newberg annexation) or 34-281 (rural district annexation, which would extend the district into Yamhill County.
There is a reason the measures are not on the May 15 ballot, which is a primary election paid for by counties.
If Newberg and the rural fire district are not within TVF&R boundaries by March 31, TVF&R cannot collect property taxes from one or both for the 2018-19 budget year that starts July 1.
"If the measure does not pass, our elected leaders … would have to negotiate an interim solution," said Cassandra Ulven, TVF&R public affairs chief. "It would probably look like a short-term contract, so that the city and the rural district can figure out what they are going to do moving forward."
Voters in Newberg and the rural district agreed to pay higher taxes as part of their annexations to TVF&R, which has a rate of $2.08 per $1,000 of taxable property value. For the rural district, the former rate was 43.28 cents.
Voters in those areas also agreed to pay a share of previously issued bonds for TVF&R district-wide improvements, so the district-wide rate for bond repayments will drop slightly.
Ulven spoke Monday, March 5, at the Washington County Public Affairs Forum.
Ulven said TVF&R service improved dramatically in the affected areas after the contracts began in mid-2016. Newberg city staffing was as low as a single two-person crew on some shifts; under TVF&R, full four-person crews serve the city and the rural area around the clock.
"They knew it was inadequate for the level of service they wanted for their community," Ulven said.
Also, although most of the TVF&R district has a rating of 2 from the Insurance Services Office, the rating for the Newberg rural area has been up to 9. Ulven said extended coverage would allow property owners in those areas to see some reductions in their insurance.
"There is not an increase in taxes as a result" for the rest of the district, she said.