Fire Protection District Bill to Be Heard

February 22, 2021

The bill would establish a framework for local units of government to create multi-jurisdictional fire protection districts.

A bill allowing local governments to create fire protection districts will be considered by the House Property Tax Division on Feb. 24.

The bill, HF 978 (Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville), is supported by a number of organizations, including the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association.

Currently, two fire protection districts have been created under special laws — the Cloquet Area Fire District, which serves the northeast area of Carlton County, and the Moose Lake Fire District.

Establishing a district under the bill

Under the bill, two or more political subdivisions are permitted to establish, by resolution of their governing bodies, a special taxing district to provide fire protection or emergency medical services, or both.

The district must be governed by a board consisting of representatives of each participating political subdivision in the proportions set out in the district’s establishing resolution. Each representative must be an elected member of their respective political subdivision.

Before establishing the district, the participating political subdivisions must enter into an agreement that specifies how to apportion the district’s tax levy, and how assets and liabilities will be distributed if the district is ever dissolved.

Funding the fire protection district

The fire protection district board would be permitted to levy a tax on property in the district. The property tax would be administered in the same manner as all other local government property taxes.

The bill also allows the fire protection district board to apportion its levy under a formula based on population, number of service calls, cost of providing service, or other measures as approved by the governing bodies of each participating subdivision.

The proceeds of the tax levy must be used to provide fire protection or emergency medical services to the residents and property located within the district. The district is permitted to incur debt to accomplish its fire protection duties.

Future changes in the district

The legislation provides that additional political subdivisions may be added to the district, as provided by the board, and agreed to in a resolution of the district’s governing board.

A political subdivision may withdraw from the district by providing a two-year notice of its intent to withdraw. The taxable property of the withdrawing subdivision is in effect for the two taxes payable years following notice of withdrawal.

Property subject to debt issued by the board remains subject to the debt levy until the outstanding debt has been paid. The district may be dissolved by resolution approved by majority vote of the board.

Read more news articles