Rural residents near Red Oak may lose fire protection services

RED OAK — Unless residents in Emergency Service District No. 4 (ESD #4) vote to increase taxes, property owners outside of City of Red Oak limits may be left without fire protection services.

ESD #4 currently contracts with the Red Oak Fire Department to provide fire protection and Advanced Life Support services to residents outside city limits. The issue is residents within the city pay $0.1415 for every hundred dollars for their appraised property value that goes toward the Red Oak Fire Department while residents outside the city limits pay three cents for every one hundred dollars of their appraised property values and ESD #4 in turn contracts services with the Red Oak Fire Department.

"Over the years the citizens of Red Oak have been subsidizing the cost for the Red Oak Fire Department to respond to calls for service outside of the City of Red Oak and inside of ESD #4," the Red Oak Firefighters Association said in a written statement.

"On April 13, 2015 the Red Oak City Council approved a resolution that if ESD #4 does not increase its rate to 10 cents for every one hundred dollars of the appraised property value the City of Red Oak will not renew the contract with ESD #4. This means residents within ESD #4 will NOT have fire protection. These residents will not have advanced life support first responders responding to their homes in a time of emergency. The Red Oak Fire Department will not respond to vehicle accidents on busy roads such as Pierce Rd, FM 2377, Pratt, and Lowrance outside of the city limits of Red Oak."

A ballot measure is asking residents inside ESD #4 to vote on a property tax increase that will provide funding to continue the contract with Red Oak Fire Department.

"To be able to increase the rate for ESD #4 an election will take place during the May election. If you want to continue to receive services from the Red Oak Fire Department, not be subject to increased homeowners insurance rates, and have peace of mind that a highly qualified and professional fire department is available 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, vote yes to increase ESD #4’s rate from three cents to ten cents," the Red Oak Firefighters Association said.

"For every $100,000 of appraised property value the current cost is $30. The new rate will increase $70 for a total of $100. Therefore, property that is appraised at $200,000 will pay $200 once a year towards all the services that the Red Oak Fire Department provides. If you feel this additional cost is too much it is much lower than what a homeowner’s insurance rate will increase without fire protection. Some homeowners could see an additional increase of up to 83% in their homeowner insurance premiums. "

Election Day is May 9. Early voting began on April 27 and runs through May 5.