PRESS RELEASE SUBMITTED BY COUNCILMAN DANIEL FRIEDMAN
An independent study of the government consolidation proposal initiated by Ramapo Councilman Daniel Friedman has been completed by the firm CGR, which has worked on numerous consolidation and dissolution projects across New York State. The results of the study verify the long-touted benefits that consolidating several fire districts within Ramapo would have for taxpayers and firefighters.
The study was funded by a $45,000 grant that was given to the Town of Ramapo after Councilman Friedman first proposed the plan and then applied for the funds under the New York State Local Government Efficiency program. Friedman’s proposal would consolidate the Park Crest Fire Protection District, the West Spring Valley Fire District, Spring Valley Fire District #1, and the area of the Village of Spring Valley into one cohesive fire district that would operate independently. Currently, those districts, composed of unincorporated areas of Ramapo, contract with the Village of Spring Valley for fire protection with the Spring Valley Fire Department.
“CGR’s analysis suggests that decentralized funding and oversight of fire services in this region may be contributing to a pattern of underinvestment. Moreover, geographic redundancy is driving cost higher than necessary…The Village, Ramapo and the three fire districts could work together to form a single joint fire district (JFD) that would provide services to the community. This new joint fire district has the potential to improve the quality of the equipment and response to the community through dedicated funding and enhanced operations. Operational efficiencies could reduce overall cost or allow for appropriate investment in fire department resources,” the report concluded.
The plan would remove control of fire protection from the Village of Spring Valley, and would place it in the hands of a new elected Board of Commissioners. The consolidation is a governmental one affecting the numerous town, village, and boards of commissioners that are currently involved in administering taxes and fire protection, and would not affect the firefighters, their coverage area, firehouses, or titles of fire officials within the department.
“This project has been a long road, and at last we are at the point where elected officials and the public can make a decision to move forward and eliminate several governments, lower taxes significantly, and improve fire protection in and around Ramapo for years to come,” said Councilman Friedman.
The study was overseen by CGR, with the assistance of a study committee that included firefighters, chiefs, fire commissioners, and was led by Councilman Friedman. Ultimately, the committee approved the findings after determining that fire protection would improve drastically with consolidation and that benefits to firefighters would be preserved.
According to the study, consolidation would provide the following benefits:
- Eliminate three unnecessary government entities that simply serve as “pass through” taxing authorities
- End the double taxation of 740 village properties that have been paying both village fire taxes and special fire district taxes for 50 years because of the archaic system of fire governance
- Stabilize fire taxes in the fire districts which are regularly subject to volatile tax rate changes
- A dedicated budget for fire protection where tax revenue can only be used for fire protection
- One government focused on providing fire protection more efficiently and with higher quality service
- Transparency in sharing costs across all residents in the district
- Elimination of duplicative costs of the fire districts such as fire district personnel, audits, elections and officer’s insurance
According to the study, the consolidation would result in a tax rate across the new district of 20.7 cents per thousand dollars of valuation. Under the plan that would have included the East Spring Valley Fire District, the tax rate would have been roughly 34 cents, or double what the average Spring Valley taxpayer pays for fire protection today. Instead, the new rate for village residents will only be three cents higher, or $10 per year.
Currently, the tax rates in the districts to be dissolved range from over 34 cents to over 50 cents. As a result, the consolidation would reduce property taxes by an astounding 40% – 59% for thousands of Ramapo residents, saving each family $47.88 – $104.04 each year.
“I’m very proud to have been part of this thorough study of an important issue for residents and firefighters,” said Jeff Streim, a former chief of the Spring Valley Fire Department and Fire Commissioner for the West Spring Valley Fire District, which would be dissolved under this plan. “It’s clear to me that if this fire consolidation is approved, it will resolve many long-standing issues and will help better protect our firefighters and residents.”