For nearly 70 years, the Denair Fire Department has protected the swath of rural, agricultural land which lies between Turlock and Denair.
But, as the years have gone by, Turlock has grown eastward toward its nearest neighbor, steadily shrinking the department’s turf – and its tax base, said Denair Fire Department Chief Glen Doerksen.
“They’ve slowly just kept encroaching closer, going east to Denair, taking our land,” Doerksen said.
At one point in time, the department’s boundaries stretched out to Walnut Road – now firmly entrenched in the heart of Turlock. Now, as Turlock considers adopting a 20-year growth plan which sees the city move as far east as Verduga Road, the Denair Fire Protection District looks set to shrink once again.
According to Doerksen, Turlock’s newest expansion could cost his department as much as $10,000 annually in taxes and special assessment revenues. That’s a sizable hit to an approximately $150,000 annual budget, shrunk throughout the years with Turlock’s steady growth.
Doerksen said the only fair solution would be for the Denair Fire Department to continue receiving its share of taxes and assessments for the land over the next 20 years, giving the department time to adapt. Previously, the department wasn’t given that luxury, Doerksen said.
“In the past they have never come to us and tried to work out a deal,” Doerksen said. “They just do a land grab.”
As Turlock expands to include the rural land, the acquisition raises another concern: the Turlock Fire Department possesses only large fire trucks and engines, intended mainly to fight structure fires. Should a grass fire or a barn fire break out on the land before it is developed, the Denair Fire Department would likely still be called to aid in fighting the blaze.
Doerksen said he has not been approached by the City of Turlock to discuss the issue, but he does have a meeting scheduled with Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa to voice his concerns.
Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden didn’t agree entirely with Doerksen, stating he believes agreements to share revenues have been made in the past. Going forward, Wasden said he expects some compromise to be reached which guarantees the Denair Fire District a share of tax revenues over time, allowing the district to “ease into the change.”
“We think we have to be equitable with our neighbors,” Wasden said.
Growth affects Denair schools, too
The Denair Unified School District, which also stretches into the area which Turlock intends to claim, won’t lose out on tax dollars as the Denair Fire Department might.
Instead, the DUSD will retain its current boundaries and grow in student population, changing to take in children who live in Turlock’s growth areas.
The situation isn’t new; the DUSD currently serves the area of northeast Turlock bounded by Berkeley Avenue, Tuolumne Road and Turlock city limits. But as growth continues in Turlock, the DUSD could reach a point where half of the district is made up of Turlock residents, Superintendent Edward Parraz said.
The growth in students– and associated growth in revenues, both from development and property taxes and per-student fees from the state – could eventually lead to a much larger, better funded DUSD.
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