Fire service taxes will increase this year for residents of an area of east Blewett served by the Nelson fire hall.
The 20 per cent increase will amount to approximately $56 for a $400,000 home, according to Ramona Faust, the elected representative for Area E of the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
The new five-year fire services contract that commences Feb. 1 was approved at last week’s RDCK board meeting. The contract covers an area including Svoboda Road and extending 10 kilometres into Blewett from the Nelson fire hall.
Under the contract, the RDCK pays the City of Nelson for emergency fire suppression, fire investigation, emergency fire rescue services, medical first responder services, and the Fire Smart program.
The boundaries of the contract area are determined by fire insurance underwriters, according to Nelson’s chief financial officer Colin McClure.
“They have kilometre ranges, so if you are within 10 kilometres of a staffed fire hall, you get a higher rating.”
McClure says much of the increase is tied to firefighter wages.
He expects a minimum of a 2.5 per cent annual retroactive wage increase when Nelson’s firefighters eventually achieve a new contract, which is now before an arbitrator, as it has been for a year. They have not had a contract since 2011.
Wages and benefits constitute about 86 per cent of Nelson’s fire budget.
McClure said the increased fire service contract rate is also based on calculations related to call volume — that area of Blewett receives about nine per cent of the Nelson fire hall’s calls — along with assessed home values, inflation, and increased provincial training requirements for fire halls.
McClure said the previous fire service contract went up 1.5 per cent when it was signed in 2013. In retrospect, he said, that was not enough, so Nelson ended up subsidizing the service. The current increase is also an attempt to make up that shortfall.
He said the residents of the affected area pay “between $400 and $800 per year” less for their home insurance as a result of being served by theNelson fire hall.