Votes in favor of Proposition No. 1, the proposed Eastside Regional Fire Authority, were ahead by about 18 percent on Nov. 9 at 1:19 a.m.. but were a percentage point shy of the needed 60 percent majority, according to the second wave of results posted by the King County Elections website.
Approximately 59.06 percent of voters voted to approve the measure while 40.94 percent chose to reject it, according to the results. 49.87 percent of ballots had been counted when these results were released. This was a slight decrease in “yes” votes from the initial 9:00 p.m. results, which showed 59.08 percent in favor of and 40.92 rejecting the measure.
The proposition is a move to unite King County Fire Protection Districts 10 and 38 under one Regional Fire Authority. District 10 currently pays a fire benefit charge, and if united the fire benefit charge will replace some of District 38’s current levy costs. Like District 10, District 38’s levy cost will go down to $1 per $1,000 of assessed value, and the rest of the collected funds will be filled in by the fire benefit charge, calculated to be approximately 49 cents per $1,000 of value.
Unlike a fire levy, which is based on fluctuating property values, a fire benefit charge is based on the size and fire risk of a building; the more it would cost to save a building if it were on fire, the higher a fire benefit charge the building owner will pay.
Sharing the costs among more taxpayers would mean a tax decrease of roughly 23 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for the 19,000 District 10 residents and a tax increase of around 20 cents per $1,000 of value for the 9,745 District 38 residents.
Regional fire authorities are not new to Washington; other fire authorities have been approved all over the state in the past, such as the Renton Fire Authority, the Kent Fire Department Fire Authority and the South Whatcom Fire Authority. The idea behind a regional fire authority is to provide better, more efficient service to taxpayers by sharing costs.
The merger previously failed by just 3.2 percent in the April 2016 special election, when it received an approval from 56.8 percent of voters.