Voters who reside in the unincorporated areas of Santa Fe County will have the opportunity to vote on the renewal of the County Fire Protection Excise Tax on November 6, 2012.
Q: Why is Santa Fe County asking voters to renew the Fire Protection Excise Tax?
A: It has been put forward for the purpose of financing the operations, capital outlay and ambulance expenses of the Santa Fe County Fire Department. The tax will cover essential maintenance and improvements to the Department’s 32 fire stations, as well as to fund the purchase of replacement fire trucks, ambulances, firefighting and medical equipment, and protective gear for volunteer and career firefighters and paramedics.
Q: Will the Fire Protection Excise Tax pay for employee salaries?
A: No. State law prohibits Fire Protection Excise Tax funds from being used to pay the salaries or benefits for Firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians, or other fire department personnel (NMSA 1978, 7-20E-16).
Q: The voter option is to renew the tax. When was it originally imposed and how has it benefited Santa Fe County?
A: The tax was originally imposed in the 1980’s and served for 25 years as an essential funding source used by the Santa Fe County Fire Department and the department's 14 volunteer fire districts. It expired in 2008 and in order to be reinstated will once again require the approval of voters in unincorporated Santa Fe County.
The Fire Protection Excise Tax was the primary means to fund equipment and apparatus purchases for the county fire department. It was used to replace fire trucks, water haulers, and ambulances; repair and maintain fire stations; purchase essential gear and equipment for volunteer and career firefighters; and to purchase new apparatus and equipment to meet the growing demand for emergency services throughout Santa Fe County and enhance the safety and abilities of our firefighters and medical personnel.
Q: Is the Fire Protection Excise Tax still subject to a sunset clause?
A: No. The original sunset clause was removed from the law by the New Mexico State Legislature in 2004. Removal of the clause was recognized as an important means to allow county fire departments to better prepare for the future by anticipating capital needs and tying those needs to a dedicated funding source with predictable revenue. Deletion of the sunset will also provide the department the opportunity to fund revenue bonds. This provides greater flexibility in planning and can allow a more cost effective means to purchase expensive fire and EMS apparatus and equipment, resulting in cost savings to tax payers.
Q: What can the tax revenue pay for?
A: The tax can be used to replace aging and worn out fire engines and water trucks, repair and maintain the department's fire stations, replace hose and nozzles, and replace or repair damaged and worn out firefighting equipment including protective coats, pants, helmet, gloves, boots, and firefighter breathing masks and air tanks.
The tax revenue can be used to replace worn out ambulances and medical equipment to ensure that the Department's Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics have essential modern appliances like defibrillators, oxygen systems, extrication tools like the Jaws of Life, and other essential rescue and life-saving equipment.
The tax revenue can also fund wildland firefighting equipment and protective gear, be used to purchase and maintain brush trucks and wildland fire engines and water tenders, and maintain and enhance the Department's radios, pagers, and radio repeater sites to ensure reliable and rapid communications over a two thousand square mile response area.
Q: How much is the Tax?
A: The tax is a one quarter of one percent (0.25%) gross receipts tax imposed on all non-medical and non-food items purchased in the unincorporated areas of Santa Fe County. This equates to 25 cents on a one hundred dollar purchase.
Q: Who will pay the tax?
A: The tax is only levied on the unincorporated areas of Santa Fe County. Incorporated areas of the County such as the City of Santa Fe and Town of Edgewood will not have the tax levy.
Q: Do other Counties have a Fire Protection Excise Tax?
A: The tax has been enacted in twenty other counties in the State of New Mexico.
Q: How much will the tax generate and is the revenue kept in Santa Fe County?
A: It is estimated that the tax will generate $1.24 million annually to help fund the critical needs of the County Fire Department. All of the revenue from the tax is retained locally.
Q: How does Santa Fe County identify Department needs?
A: The fire department uses a five year planning process to identify apparatus and equipment in need of replacement. The 2010-2014 Plan was approved by the Board of County Commissioners and is linked on the department’s website.