Senate Bill 1372 — Division of fire protection districts

Senate Bill 1372 — Division of fire protection districts

by
Lindsay Atkinson
March 4, 2020
Lindsay Atkinson
March 4, 2020

Bill description: SB 1372 would allow fire protection districts to be divided in two.

Rating: -2

Does it increase government redistribution of wealth? Examples include the use of tax policy or other incentives to reward specific interest groups, businesses, politicians, or government employees with special favors or perks; transfer payments; and hiring additional government employees. Conversely, does it decrease government redistribution of wealth? 

SB 1372 would allow a single fire protection district to be divided into two. There is currently no provision in Idaho law to allow this. 

According to the guidance set in this bill, if a district were to be split in two, it would likely result in a 50/50 split of assets, debt, commissioners, and staff, unless the commissioners of the district decide otherwise.

Thus, this bill could result in a redistribution of wealth. Even though its guidance is that there should be an even split of the assets, debt, commissioners, and staff that compose the current district, it does not require an even split of the boundaries.

In essence, a district could split in two, where one of the new districts represents 70% of the original district and the other new district represents 30%. Even though the first district would have a much larger area, it might only get 50% of the assets. And the much smaller district might receive the same amount (50%). Thus, the taxpayers in the larger district may have some of their old tax dollars go toward projects and operations in the much smaller district, which they are no longer a part of.

(-1)

Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency or accountability? Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency or accountability?

SB 1372 allows two different ways for dividing a fire protection district. The first way is for residents of the district to ask for it by a petition. If such “petition signed by ten percent (10%) or more of the electors” is filed, then the question of dividing the district will go before voters in either a May or November election. 

In the second way, the district’s commissioners make the decision, subject to a public veto. In this case, the commissioners would hold a public hearing on the matter, and they would ultimately decide whether or not to divide the district. If they decide to divide the district, any resident who opposes that decision can, within 30 days, bring forth “a petition signed by twenty-five percent (25%) of the qualified electors of the original fire protection district objecting to the division.” In that case, there would be an election on the matter, decided by majority vote.

Thus, in order to overturn the decision of the commissioners, residents would have to gather a large number of signatures in a very short period (one month). Twenty-five percent (25%) of qualified electors in a district is an unreasonably high threshold, considering that the average voter turnout for taxing districts is around 30% (higher in general elections). This high threshold would make it difficult for the average resident to hold the fire protection commissioners accountable for their decision.

(-1)

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