Gates Fire District explains 5 double-digit tax hikes in 6 years

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If you watched News10NBC this week you saw us uncover the snafu with fire tax bills in Gates and parts of Chili.
The mistake undercharged homeowners.

Now we’re focused on the size of the tax. In the Gates district, fire taxes have gone up double digits five out of the last six years. “Explain why you had to raise the taxes the way you did,” I asked the vice president of the Gates Fire District board of commissioners.

Dan Cox says they can’t get enough volunteer firefighters so they have to pay firefighters. “The options are clear,” he said. “We have to go to ‘career’ to be able to support the requirements that are out there.”

The fire tax increase in the Gates Fire District, which includes parts of Chili, goes up 10.5 percent this year.
In 2022 it was 13.9%.
In 2021 it was 14.4%.
In 2020 it was 17.2%.
In 2019 it was 8%.
In 2018 it was 12.7%.

Last year, the Gates Fire District collected more tax ($11.9 million) than the Town of Gates did ($11.7 million).
Last year, Gates hired eight firefighters.
The plan is to hire another eight this year.

Brean: “You have drivers for your battalion chiefs. They don’t even have that in the Rochester fire department. So why do you need to have drivers for your battalion chiefs?”
Dan Cox: “Our fire chief in the operations he has to follow, he’s following the national standards that are out there. We’ve looked at the requirements. We’ve looked at the alternatives and that’s the best solution we have. And we support that.”

Reports I read say drivers can free up chiefs to plan for the incident they’re going to.
In Deanna Dewberry’s report on the printing error with the Gates Fire District tax bills, she compared the difference the owner of a $200,000 house would pay if they lived in the Gates or Chili fire district.
Pixley road divides them.

“If you’re in the Chili district you’re paying $268 for your fire bill,” Deanna said. “But across the street in Gates, you’re paying $1,188 bucks.”

Brean: “Do you think you’re being fair to the taxpayers in your district?”
Cox: “Oh very fair and I’m a taxpayer. My family is a taxpayer. Yes. I don’t want to raise the taxes of the people. I totally believe it’s fair based on the lack of volunteerism.”

Cox points to the data. Gates had more than 5,000 calls last year. Chili had one thousand.

“I’m representing my personal views, it’s my opinion that we are expanding too fast and spending too much money,” said Dave DiCaro.

DiCaro is also a commissioner in the Gates Fire District. He’s also the former Gates Police chief. He agrees the volunteer problem is real.

“My real concern is that we’ve doubled the budget basically in six years and the expansion of the department is one that, I personally don’t think we need,” DiCaro said.

Last year, in 80 percent of the calls, Gates firefighters got to a scene in less than two minutes.

There’s a bill in Albany that would give volunteer firefighters a tax credit.

The gates fire district budget passed in October.