Reconfirmed Fire Districts: New Boundaries Aim to Clarify Tax Allocations | Local

Scotts Bluff County Rural Fire Departments were fighting fires in some areas, but were not receiving proper tax receipts from levies in their districts. A new plan from the county’s GIS department will ensure

district boundaries align with tax allocations.


In recent weeks, it has been revealed that tax collections that benefit Scotts Bluff County fire protection districts have been out of sync, possibly for decades. Several hundred parcels of land whose tax claims had been paid to the Rural Fire Protection District of Scottsbluff should have provided money to other districts instead.

Concretely, 281 plots should have gone to the department of Minatare-Melbeta; 49 should have gone to the rural district of Mitchell; five should have gone to the town of Gering, and one should have gone to the town of Scottsbluff.

Under a new County Geographic Information System (GIS) district plan, district boundaries do not change. However, areas that should pay taxes to specific departments are now synced with fire district boundaries.

County GIS Director Ashle Powell presented the new plans to the Scotts Bluff County Board of Commissioners at their May 2 meeting.

“It’s just because the money isn’t going to the right tax district. These limits never change,” she told the commissioners. “All I did was update the legal description so someone outside of my office could understand it and follow it.”

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Many maps of rural districts were made in the 1940s and 1950s. Even the creation of the most recent, the Minatare-Melbeta map, took place in 1989.

Most of the ridings were drawn around school or electoral districts that have changed or no longer exist.

“Basically, we’ve taken all the old resolutions out and taken them to where they are right now,” Powell told the Star-Herald.

Fire District Tax History

A map showing over 200 parcels of land (in red) that should have been under the jurisdiction of the Minatare-Melbeta Fire Department but were instead under the jurisdiction of the Rural Department of Scottsbluff.

Courtesy of Ashle Powell

She worked with the County Mutual Aid Chairman, Gering Fire Chief Nathan Flowers to update the resolutions.

They had to do more research on the cards because of their age.

“We didn’t redesign them. We’ve bypassed them to make sure the resolution says what the map says, and we’ve updated the descriptions to be easier to read,” Powell said. She added that the process began when her predecessor, Suzie Wick, and Flowers County predecessor, Anthony Murphy, were still in their positions.

Paul Reisig, chairman of the Scottsbluff Rural Fire Protection District board, said his department learned of the mistakes just eight months ago. “The only thing we can think of is that at one point it was school boundary roads…it’s very broken,” he said.

For example, some of the discrepancies require members of the Scottsbluff Rural and Minatare-Melbeta districts to cross each other’s jurisdiction to fight fires in their own country.

County Commissioner Mark Reichert told the Star-Herald that Anthony Murphy, the former Scottsbluff City Fire Marshal, brought the discrepancies to his attention more than a year ago.

“It takes money to fight fires and we are just a volunteer fire force. Where will all the money come from? said Reichert.

At one point in late April, he said the Minatare-Melbeta department had less than $4 before a soup supper brought in another $1,000. Much of their budget had been spent fighting fires in other counties, and without the proper tax districts they hadn’t earned as much over the decades as they could have been allocated.

Reisig said different departments have always served their areas regardless of tax differentials.

“Although no one knows, we all did our job.” He said it is important that the different departments get along so they can rely on each other when helping each other.

Reisig said his department spoke to an attorney when they learned of the discrepancies. The attorney recommended making corrections, and Reisig said the attorney said there would be no need for additional county council resolutions.

He added that it would be wrong to blame current officials for the discrepancies. All district decisions had been made long before any of them had been elected.

We are always interested in hearing news from our community. Let us know what happens!

James V. Hayes