MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Polk County Fire District No. 1 will reduce its operating levy by 12 cents per $1,000 as part of its 2007-08 budget.
District officials also announced that they have canceled the testing process for a new fire chief and instead will interview interim chief Jason Cane for the job.
Those were some of the items to emerge during a district board meeting on June 11.
Board members adopted a $3.8 million budget - 16.6 percent higher than 2006-07. Cane said it reflects increases for training and equipment expenses needed to respond to a growing call load in Monmouth and Independence.
The district fielded 1,667 calls in 2006, 9.7 percent higher than 2005.
The levy rate reduction had been a concern among some board members during an earlier budget meeting.
The district is in the second year of a five-year ambulance operation levy, which raised the rate by 77 cents per $1,000 of assessed value (AV). The permanent tax rate is $1.50.
The rate is initially set at its maximum level, but can be reduced in subsequent years.
Some had previously said lowering the amount could leave the district financially vulnerable when the levy expires. Last week, however, board members adopted the rate without discussion. Cane said he believed 60 cents was enough to cover expenses and allow for sufficient annual reserves - near $1 million - through at least 2012.
Higher call and transport volume, growth of the district's assessed value, and shutting down Station No. 60 in Monmouth give the district room to reduce the rate, Cane said.
"Based on those things, we're hoping to not have to go out for another levy," he said.
The district will purchase a new engine, transport van, grass fire vehicle and chassis for an existing ambulance in 2007-08.
These items will replace older Central Station No. 90 equipment - which, in turn, will be distributed among Polk No. 1's rural substations.
In the search for a new district chief, an upcoming interview will give Cane an opportunity to move into the job.
Cane, 35, earned his firefighter certification at Chemeketa Community College and Western Oregon University. He was a volunteer for the Sheridan Fire District in 1990, then became assistant fire chief at Charleston Fire District in 1995.
He became deputy state fire marshal in 1998, and was hired as Polk No.1's fire marshal in 2001. He was named interim chief after Darrell Patterson retired in February.