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Fire District 38 requests authorization to increase tax levy lid
One item that may have surprised local voters when they
received their pamphlet from King County for the Sept. 14 primary
election appears on page 29.
Under the title of Fire Protection District No. 38,
Proposition No. 1, it states: "Shall King County Fire
Protection District No. 38 be authorized to increase its regular
property tax levy to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, as
provided in District Resolution No. 153?"
According to the King County Assessor's office, the current
levy rate is $.94382 per $1,000 of valuation, which indicates the
rate could go up as much as 56 cents per $1,000. Therefore, the
owner of a $200,000 home covered by District 38 could see a $112
yearly increase in their taxes.
The statement adds, "The additional tax revenue is
necessary to provide adequate fire and emergency services and to
insure that the present District contracts for emergency services
will be continued."
That's led to several questions among voters, chief among them
being, if the levy increase passes, what will District 38
homeowners and businesses get in the way of enhanced services?
Conversely, if it fails, will the district lose service and
According to FD No. 38 Commissioner Gary Stevens, a large part
of the decision to submit the levy lid increase to a vote was
based on improving service.
"As a little bit of history, we tried to get all three
local entities - North Bend, Snoqualmie and Fire District 38 - to
form an `Upper Valley fire department,' and it didn't work
out," said Stevens during an interview last Friday.
"The majority of the commissioners decided the best
avenue to provide fire service for voters in our district was to
contract with Eastside Fire and Rescue (EF&R). I think we'd
still like to have our own fire department, or our own department
in the Upper Valley, but at this time it's not feasible."
In Nov. 1998, as part of the negotiations with EF&R, Chief
Lee Soptich submitted a letter to then-FD38 board chairman Jerry
Prior. In it Soptich stated that under an amendment to the
continued service provision, the district would retain all of its
assets, would gain an additional career firefighter, and would
maintain a portion of the levy for administrative costs.
Under paragraph 25.1 of the agreement, EF&R told District
38 that it should " ... request a special election, in
conjunction with the 1999 primary election (September, 1999), for
the purpose of submitting a levy lid lift ballot proposition to
the voters of District 38. If this ballot proposition is not
approved, District 38 shall request another special election, in
conjunction with the 1999 general election (November 1999)."
In his cover letter, Chief Soptich added, "We would
encourage your commission to pursue the levy rate increase so
that additional improvements could be made in the future."
Hence, the levy lid increase will appear on the ballot.
However, the one thing no one is able to definitely pin down is
what "additional improvements" will result if the levy
"It was discussed earlier in our contract discussion with
Fire District 10 and Eastside Fire & Rescue," continued
Stevens. "At one time, the problem would be if we did not
get the levy raised, they would start taking assets away from the
"It's the opinion of the board that even if we don't get
the levy raised, they won't take assets from us, but without the
raising of the levy, we can't get the services improved.
"With the increase of this levy lid we can get
more," he said. "Maybe an additional firefighter in
North Bend, and possibly pay for a firefighter for the City of
Snoqualmie. That would aid both ends of the district."
The Snoqualmie Fire Department currently serves part of Fire
District 38, under contract to Eastside Fire and Rescue.
Conversely, Commissioner Bill Weber isn't too sure what form
these improvements will take. He said as much last Friday.
"At this point, Eastside Fire and Rescue has made no
specific commitment to increase the level of service should the
levy lid raise. However, I have asked that question several
times, and it has been discussed among us in the past.
"There's no telling what kind of improvements could come
from all this," Weber added. "Two things I've asked for
specifically are a second paramedic - we currently have a single
paramedic with a ride-along or driver - and 8 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.)
manning at the Wilderness Rim station. I didn't get a yes or no
on either point.
"Their (EF&R) position has always been that since the
rest of Fire District 10 residents pay a certain levy rate, we
should pay the same rate.
"My goal as commissioner is to hold their feet to the
fire - in a professional manner - and make sure they give us the
service they're supposed to."
Apparently, if the proposition fails next Tuesday, it will be
reintroduced for the general election on Nov. 2. In fact, Stevens
said it would probably keep reappearing on the ballot until it
finally does get passed.
"It's something that's needed," he stated. "If
we ever go out on our own, we'll need that money, and possibly
more. If it's not in place at the time, we'll have to wait a full
year before we can collect the tax."
Jerry Prior, the third commissioner and this year's designated
representative to EF&R, agreed the issue would be revisited
in November, if necessary.
"That's my understanding of our agreement with
Eastside," Prior said. "Our commissioners have
discussed it as something we should do."
Stevens repeated there would be no cuts if the levy fails, but
it should be approved for the long-term good of the district.
"It is not the intent to cut service if the levy doesn't
pass," he concluded. "It's my opinion that we are
getting more than what we pay for. We haven't raised the levy in
some time, and everyone knows the cost of services have gone up
in this day and age.
"You have to think about fire protection. This contract
is good for a total of seven years, and then we - or whoever is
on the commission then - will have to decide what to do. They
could continue the contract, or they could start their own