Special Election May 2023

Town Of Carefree

Property Tax Soundly Defeated

Voting in the Carefree Special Election for property tax to fund an Automatic Aid emergency system concluded on Tuesday.  The tax was defeated by a very large margin; turnout was 72.5% and the totals are 1,905 (80%) Against the Tax vs 467 (20%) For the Tax.

“The election result sent the clear message that a vast majority of our residents are pleased with the fire and emergency medical services provided by Rural Metro. Voters weighed the risk to life and property vs. costs and provided clear direction to elected representatives” said Carefree Mayor John Crane.

The mayor and other Carefree officials met with Rural Metro fire chiefs Wednesday morning and informed them the Town would allow the current contract to automatically renew through July, 2027, which in January will make Carefree the last remaining north valley municipality remaining in the mutual aid system.  The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to each other and explored possible cooperative efforts to further improve the public safety of Carefree residents within the current contract framework.

Carefree Unity 5/20/23

Actual Facts

Carefree Unity has not been posting fact checks on the special election.  It is simply not feasible; messages from the vote NO campaign usually contain several false statements and they publish many messages.  Instead, here are a few facts that voters may find relevant:

·         The National standard for response travel times for emergency and fire first responders is four minutes or less 90% of the time.  It is not an average of 4 minutes, not 5 minutes, not 5:20 or any other number.  There are other standards, for example for alarm answering time, alarm processing time, turnout time, initial low hazard full alarm time, initial high hazard full alarm time etc., and Automatic Aid fire districts report many of them.

·         But Rural Metro reports none of these national standard times in its monthly reports.  The mismatch of reporting data between Rural Metro and Automatic Aid districts has been exploited by the NO campaign to make invalid comparisons.  In fact, though the Carefree station has a very small coverage area, the data that is available shows a 35% deterioration of response travel times since Carefree lost most of its mutual aid partners, and we are now clearly and consistently slower than the national standard.  This is very concerning.

·         Multiple studies show a correlation between emergency response times and mortality, especially for medical emergencies and especially as response travel times increase.

·         The loss of Cave Creek as a mutual aid partner accounts for most of the deterioration in Rural Metro response travel times.  Driving farther takes longer, and joining Automatic Aid would restore the Cave Creek station as the first responder to many Carefree addresses.

·         Under Automatic Aid we will still have the Carefree station so there will be no Carefree residents that will have to wait longer than they do now for a first responder.  But overall response travel times will drop significantly because each of the four supplemental stations in surrounding communities can get to some Carefree residents faster than responders from our station can.

·         The primary path open to Carefree to join Automatic Aid is through a partnership with either Scottsdale or Daisy Mountain.  Both would cost more than our current Rural Metro contract, and both can be realistically funded only through a property tax.

The situation is stark.  Carefree cannot have the fire and emergency medical response system we had before our primary mutual aid partners withdrew from their relationships with Carefree two years ago.  Continuing with Rural Metro without those partners means accepting slower average response travel times, particularly for portions of town not adjacent to the existing Carefree Fire Station.  It also means that help for backup or large emergencies will take longer to arrive.  Alternatively, we can choose Automatic Aid, a system that is safer because of faster response travel times, faster alarm processing times and more available equipment, if we are willing to dedicate an average cost of $668 per year per home.

That is our choice.  It is about public safety.  How safe do we want to be, and what are we willing to pay for it?

Carefree Unity

“Vote NO” Campaign Statements

Contradicted By State and Local Officials

Those who want to convince residents to vote NO on the special election already in progress are increasingly relying on false statements and misinformation to convince voters.  Responsible officials are increasingly calling them out.  Here are three recent examples.

From Phoenix Fire Chief Mike Duran 

Below please see the statement from the State Bureau Of Emergency Services and a link to Rural Metro Fire Chief Tim Soule’s comments to the public at the recent Town Council Meeting

https://www.youtube.com/live/kF8ZT6k3_mQ?feature=share&t=500(opens in a new tab)

This week a north Boulders resident posted and emailed multiple statements attributed to two officials at the State Bureau of Emergency Services.  A flyer distributed in Carefree neighborhoods named the officials and included an additional quote.  But when we contacted the bureau, they told us they don’t have the data our resident says they have, and never would have made any of the quotes attributed to them without data to back them up.  One of the named officials was particularly shocked about the claims attributed to him concerning Scottsdale’s emergency service budgets, as they collect no data at all from Scottsdale and so would certainly never comment on its budgets.  His office does collect data on ambulance providers, however, and as a result we learned that Rural Metro has lost $2.8 million in Maricopa County over the past three reporting years, which only serves to make the statements attributed to him more preposterous.

This gracious public servant (and indeed his entire department) was represented as opposing both Automatic Aid and a property tax in Carefree, positions they do not hold, by statements they never made.  He noted that his office cannot stop people from making false statements, but they absolutely do want to correct the record.

Also this week, Phoenix Fire Chief Mike Duran contacted the Carefree Town Administrator.  “Over the past 60 days information has been circulated to the residents of the Town of Carefree through a variety of venues.  Much of the information is inaccurate or false, which I believe needs to be corrected.”

Chief Duran addressed several inaccurate and false claims made by the NO campaign, regarding Phoenix and Scottsdale response times, Automatic Aid staffing and coverage, the health of the Automatic Aid system, the lengths of Automatic Aid contracts, and its relationship with Maricopa County government (there is none).  The Chief’s entire letter is reproduced at the top of this page

In this month’s Carefree Town Council Meeting, Rural Metro Fire Chief Tim Soule took the podium during the Call to the Public segment.  He said the NO campaign had used false statements in documents and videos that have had the effect of using Rural Metro as a club to beat up the Town Manager and the Town Council.  He said he had initially cooperated with the NO campaign because he believed that he “could provide information and data that would allow people to make decisions.”  “I was wrong…I need to apologize because I thought…we could actually have a respectful discourse and people could have contrary opinions.  What I found out is that that’s not the case, unfortunately.”  He said that the NO campaign’s actions were harming Rural Metro’s relationship with the Town and with neighboring fire departments from whom we may need assistance in the future.

Chief Soule closed by asking the NO members in attendance to begin engaging in respectful dialog.  “We can’t beat everybody up because if we destroy relationships, regardless of the outcome of that vote it’s going to be very difficult to maintain the positive level of services that are being provided today.”

The entire Town Council video is posted on the Town of Carefree website.  Chief Soule’s complete comments can be viewed from minute 8:00 to minute 15:30 on the April 4 Town Council video link.  See link above

Carefree Unity has not been posting fact checks for false information in the Special Election.  Sadly the NO campaign has hatched literally dozens of false statements.  This does not provide a service to voters.

There is no doubt our public safety has been impacted by the loss of our mutual aid partners, especially Cave Creek which until 2022 handled about 100 Carefree incidents per year.  Voters need to know what is at risk and how much additional safety a new tax of about $55 per month for an average homeowner will buy them.  But this is not the conversation we are having.

Our next mailing will state some facts that voters can use to frame their thinking on this important issue.

Carefree Unity

Automatic Aid/Mutual Aid

The Carefree Special Election will be a vote on whether to approve a local property tax to fund a switch from our current Mutual Aid system of Fire and Emergency Medical Services (Fire / EMS) to an automatic computer dispatch system called Automatic Aid.

Both systems reflect the need of every fire station for help sometimes.  Mutual Aid is an older system where requests for assistance are normally made by phone.  Automatic Aid is a computer aided system that always dispatches the quickest responder, regardless of jurisdiction.  It also automatically dispatches additional resources for large emergencies.

Recently Carefree has lost most of its Mutual Aid partners.  Instead of Cave Creek, Phoenix and Scottsdale, the closest Mutual Aid responder is now in Rio Verde Foothills, 20 to 30 minutes away.  The next closest responder is nearly an hour away.  Carefree is effectively on a Mutual Aid “island.”  Since Cave Creek and Scottsdale left Mutual Aid in 2022, Carefree response times have been 35% slower, which is obviously a big concern in medical emergencies.

A YES vote would establish a Carefree property tax levy of about $1 per $100 of Limited Property Value, or about $668 per year for the average homeowner.  The proceeds would be restricted to Automatic Aid funding, and the tax levy could never be increased except by vote of Carefree residents.  A NO vote would leave our current Mutual Aid system in place.

Vice Mayor Cheryl Kroyer With Facts On The May Election

Vice Mayor Cheryl Kroyer has shared the following letter. We are publishing it in the public interest.  Carefree Unity

Get the Facts on Carefree’s Public Safety Vote

Intentional misinformation is being circulated by those asking you to vote no in the upcoming special election.  It is important to understand the Facts.

Misstatement #1: public safety is not at risk in Carefree.

Fact:  This election is about public safety and you are at risk.  All neighboring towns have now gone to Automatic Aid, which is the gold standard for emergency care.  Without mutual aid partners our emergency response times have deteriorated.

Misstatement #2: response times.

Fact: Carefree response times have increased as a large portion of Carefree’s population which previously was served by the Cave Creek fire station no longer receives assistance from this station.  Instead of receiving assistance from the closest fire station, many Carefree residents receive delayed responses since they are further from the Carefree fire station.  If residents vote yes, 4 fire stations that wrap around Carefree will be seamlessly and automatically accessible to Carefree residents and thus will improve response times.

Misstatement #3: don’t worry fire calls are less than 1%. 

Fact: The majority of calls are medical emergencies where time is of essence.  Additional resources that are geographically spaced to give seamless and automatic accessibility to Carefree residents in a time of need is a public safety issue.

Misstatement #4: Automatic Aid costs more and provides less.

Fact: Isn’t having direct, seamless and automatic access to 5 fire stations vs 1 fire station more?  Additionally, due to the location of these additional fire stations, there will be more timely responses to your emergency, isn’t that worth your investment in a time of need?

Misstatement #5:  Once a property tax is passed it only grows.

Fact: Pursuant to the law (Town Code §15-1-2), the tax cannot increase without another vote of the residents.  That is the law.  The Property Tax cannot grow.

Before you vote, study the facts. This election is about public safety for you and your family and ensuring a financially responsible, sustainable and solvent way of funding this commitment.

Cheryl Kroyer

Former Mayor Peterson on The May Special Election

Former Carefree Mayor and Boulders Homeowner Association member Les Peterson has submitted the following article to Carefree Unity.  Les’ experience makes him a subject matter expert, so we are distributing his thoughts for the consideration of our readers.

Voting “Yes” on the Initiative Ballot is Carefree’s Better Long-term Option

As the Mayor of Carefree for 7+ years through December, 2022, I had knowledge of the facts developed and the deliberations of the Carefree Fire Safety Committee as they investigated the various options and costs for fire and safety coverage in Carefree for the coming years. The Committee’s considered recommendation was that Carefree adopt the Automatic Aid approach, funded via a limited property tax.

I support the Committee’s recommendation to vote “yes” on the current Ballot Initiative which fulfills their recommendation, but I recognize that there are some valid points supporting both sides of this debate. Placing Carefree residents in increased danger would be reckless, and, while I have long opposed a property tax for Carefree, for this necessary expenditure it is the only funding option available. 

Back-up fire and safety coverage in Carefree has become problematic because the two remaining Rural Metro supported communities in reasonable proximity to Carefree, Cave Creek and Fountain Hills, have now broken their ties with Rural Metro. However, the  statements from the people urging a “no” vote on the Initiative stating that back-up support from Rural Metro’s station supporting Rio Verde is only 15 minutes from Carefree are incorrect. 

The more accurate back-up response time from the referenced Rural Metro fire station in Rio Verde, is 20-30 minutes. That station is at 164th Street and Rio Verde Drive, 15 to 19 miles away from different parts of Carefree. Assuming an average travel distance of 17 miles, to reach their destination in Carefree within 15 minutes the fire and safety equipment dispatched would have to travel at an average speed of 68 miles per hour, including any required slowing for intersections and traffic. That’s not a reasonable assumption upon which to build a response time model. For reference, the National Fire Protection Association has set a top speed of 68 mph for fire trucks, and the average speeds reached nationally traveling to an incident location are approximately 35 mph. 

I also don’t believe that Rural Metro, however well they have performed for Carefree residents in the past, is a viable long-term solution for our Town. There are questions of whether Rural Metro will want to continue to operate in Carefree beyond the termination of the current contract, which can be extended for an additional 3 1/2 years beyond which time it would need to be re-negotiated. Available information suggests that Rural Metro is losing money under the current pricing structure pertaining only to Carefree. A substantially higher price to continue their support beyond the 3 1/2 year contract term would be likely. 

If Carefree didn’t continue with Rural Metro beyond the current contract duration, Carefree would likely be forced to implement its own Fire and Safety Department, which would be even more costly. If that were to happen, it is likely that Carefree’s re-application into Automatic Aid at that time would be rejected because it would require a positive vote from the other Automatic Aid Fire Department Chiefs, which the Fire and Safety Committee was told would be unlikely.

I also dismiss those arguments which have surfaced recently suggesting that Carefree enter into an Automatic Aid arrangement paid for out of increased sales taxes in lieu of implementing a property tax from the development of two high traffic locations, each of which is on Carefree Highway and will require zoning changes. These are unrealistic, given that no development proposals are currently under consideration by Carefree Planning and Zoning, a process that will likely be lengthly given the Carefree is in the midst of changing its Town Plan of Development. Any possible sales taxes from these properties is a minimum of 5 or more years in the future. 

Voting “Yes” supports a long-term commitment with significant ramifications for the residents of Carefree. While arguments can be mounted on both sides of this  question, in my opinion those supporting a “Yes” vote are of greater merit than those supporting a “No” vote. I believe that a “Yes” vote on the Initiative Ballot is Carefree’s better long-term option. 

Les Peterson

2023 Special Election

On May 16, 2023 Carefree residents will have the opportunity to vote in a special election to determine the direction the Town will take in regard to fire and emergency medical services within the community. If the measure is approved it would create a solvent and sustainable revenue stream to fund a transition to a more robust and dependable regional emergency response system called Automatic Aid.

What’s on the ballot?

Resolution 2022-18 calls for a special election to occur in May 2023 to consider a primary property tax to enable the community to support the long-term financial commitment to become part of Automatic Aid. By state law such special election can only occur in May.

  • Should voters elect to approve a property tax to fund this service, Resolution 2022 -19 is in place as a safeguard to restrict the funds collected with the primary property tax to fund the contract for Fire and Emergency Medical Services.
  • If approved, the tax assessment will begin in July 2023 and will be due with the first Maricopa County collection in October 2023.
  • Should voters elect not to approve a property tax to support an Automatic Aid contract, the Town of Carefree will continue its service contract with Rural Metro and inherit the risk of inadequate regional assistance during a time of need.
Proposed Tax Levy
  • The proposed primary tax levy is capped at $2.0 million and will never exceed this amount without a public vote as outlined in the Town’s ordinance.
  • This levy does not cover the entire costs of funding the contract with an Automatic Aid partner. The Town will balance the remaining annual costs of its new fire contract with the Town’s annual sales tax collection, to pay for the 25-year commitment.
Homeowner Impact
  • Property taxes are not assessed on the market value of a home but a discounted valuation called Limited Property Value.
  • A primary tax level of $2.0 million would translate for the average home in Carefree with a Limited Property Value (LPV) of $630,000, to $55.67 per month or $668 per year.
  • For comparison, prior to the Town assuming the master contract with Rural Metro 20 years ago, residents were independently paying an average of $750 annually to Rural Metro. In today’s dollars, that annual subscription would exceed $1,000 annually.
  • https://carefree.municipalimpact.com/2023-special-election