FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICTS.....
A Fire Protection District is a unit of local government, having only the limited purposes and powers granted to it by the Missouri General Assembly.
No, not like a city or county which may have multiple responsibilities. A fire district has only responsibilities in fire suppression, emergency response, and (if local voters appprove) emergency ambulance service.
Yes, like a city or county in that a fire district has
ordinance powers, meaning that a Fire District can adopt ordinances
which people are required (under threat of jail or fine) to obey.
Chapter 321 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri. There are, of course, other statutes that also apply to all local governments, including a Fire Protection District. Examples of these "other statutes" are:
Chapter 610 -- the Open Meetings and Records law -- called the "Sunshine Law....."
RSMo § 105.450 et seq., the "conflicts of interest" law
Article VII, § 6 of the Missouri Constitution prohibiting Nepotism,
RSMo § 67.80 requiring a fire district to have a budget...
and lots of other statutes.
Missouri Law requires that all elected fire district board members attend a class on board operations. We recommend the "Certified Fire District Board Training" course offered by the Missouri University Fire and Rescue Training Institute, which is 6 clock hours long. This class is also available to people who are not elected to a fire protection district board position.
If you are thinking of running for office as an FPD director, your local FPD (assuming it is a member of MAFPD) can download from the "Members Only" section of this web site a document called "Ballards Rules for FPDs" which explains some of these statutes in more detail. Or you can ask University Extension to obtain a copy for you.
The Missouri Association of Fire Protection Districts is a voluntary association of these units of local government. We try to help our members by providing educational resources through newsletters, classes, conferences, and individual e-mail. We also are members of the "Fire Alliance" which is an organization of six different groups of firefighting folks that jointly lobbies the Missouri legislature. View other pages on this web site (particularlly the one called "How to Join") for more information.
The voters living inside the territory of the fire district authorize its formation. There are a lot of hoops that have to be jumped through first. Elsewhere on this web site, there is a long document titled "Formation" which gives those details.
Most fire protection districts operate from funds generated by a property tax. Because of both requirements in the Missouri Constitution, and additional requirements in state statutes, any such tax must have been first approved by the voters.
Some fire districts have chosen not to ask voters to approve a property tax, and instead operate by charging a "membership fee." Other fire districts have asked, but the voters have turned down taxing authority.
About 10-15 fire protection districts have (with voter approval) imposed a sales tax on retail sales inside their territory. Most fire districts away from urban areas have authority to impose the tax if voters agree -- and up to half of any sales tax MUST be used to reduce the property tax. (Half has to be used to reduce the property tax, unless the tax reaches zero before all of half is used up.)
Each fire district is usually controlled by a board of directors consisting of 3 or 5 persons. These persons are elected to office at the April (Municipal) election.
These people are usually elected to 6 year terms of office. The terms are staggered so there is an election every 2 years.
The "default" number of directors is 3 or 5. In every county outside of St. Louis county the voters can (if asked by the FPD Board of Directors) authorize an increase in the number of directors to 5.
In Missouri, fire protection can be provided to the public by (1) an association or company organized to assist its members, (2) a city fire department, or (3) a fire protection district.
As a general rule, the advantage of an FPD over association-provided service are (a) the ability to retain fixed boundaries, and (b) having a source of funding that everyone contributes to support. The main advantage of an FPD over a city fire department is that most city fire departments end up having to "subsidize" rural fire service because of the inavility to generate enough voluntary membership contributions.
Elsewhere on this web site you will find a longer document called "Advantages of an FPD."