Election 2016 | Fall City Fire District asks for voter approval of maintenance and operations levy in Proposition 1

  • Wed Oct 19th, 2016 3:31pm
  • News

Within the Snoqualmie Valley, there are four local ballot measures on the Nov. 8 ballot, most of them related to fire protection services and all of them named Proposition 1.

The measures affect nearly every city in the Valley:

The merger of Fire Districts 10 and 38 in the Eastside Regional Fire Authority’s proposal will be voted on by residents in Carnation and unincorporated areas of North Bend and Snoqualmie;

The M&O levy proposed by Fall City Fire will affect future operations in Fire Protection District 27;

The city of Snoqualmie’s Proposition 1 needs voter approval to expand public safety staffing levels in the city; and

The city of Duvall’s Proposition 1 has three components, improvements to Big Rock Ballfield, increasing the city’s IT budget, and increasing funding for a school resource officer. The city of Duvall also has an advisory vote on the ballot, asking residents whether the city should allow the sale, possession or discharge of any consumer fireworks in the city.

Record Staff have summarized the details of each Proposition this week.

Fall City Fire (District 27) Proposition 1

Measure name: Proposition No. 1 Levy of General Tax for Maintenance and Operations

Sponsoring organization: King County Fire Protection District No. 27 (Fall City Fire Department)

Anticipated cost: 44.75 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed valuation, or about $180 annually for a $400,000 home

Anticipated revenue: Approximately $475,000 in new revenue per year.

Projected total levy rate: Approximately $1.89 per $1,000 of assessed value, which includes the existing fire protection levy, the proposed M&O levy, and an existing small amount for paying off fire station bonds. For a $400,000 home, the total cost would be about $760 annually.

What it will do: Proposition 1 calls for a four-year levy to raise $475,000 annually for continuing fire protection services in Fire District 27, which includes Fall City and the surrounding area.

This is the second M&O levy the district, covering roughly 23 square miles between Preston, Carnation and Snoqualmie, has put before voters. The first, a three-year levy that expires in December, was put on the ballot after District 27 lost property to annexations into Sammamish and Snoqualmie.

“With the annexations, there are fewer taxpayers,” said Fall City Fire Chief Chris Connor.

To maintain department operations with 10 full-time firefighters and 17 volunteers, plus equipment maintenance and updates, the district asked voters to approve a $425,000 annual levy then.

The department opted for an M&O levy, instead of a lid lift, or excess levy like Snoqualmie’s Proposition 1, in hopes of protecting its funding from future prorating reductions. Excess levies in junior taxing districts such as fire protection districts, can be reduced, or prorated according to the district’s priority level, if the total combined levy rate on a property exceeds $5.90 per $1,000 of value.

Connor said although the county has established a levy of up to $1.50 (with three levies of up to 50 cents per $1,000 of value each) per $1,000 that fire districts can assess, due to prorating, “we are projecting that our levy rate next year is going to be about $1.40 per thousand.”

The department also considered a fire benefit charge, to preserve its funding, but rejected the idea as a model that wouldn’t work well in Fall City.

“There’s a lot of open space property,” Connor said, so a fire benefit charge “would concentrate the tax burden on residential properties.”

The population of the fire district is estimated at about 6,800 people. The department responds to an average of 800 to 900 calls annually.

The new levy is set at $50,000 more than the expiring one, and goes for one more year. Connor pointed out that the increase is slightly more than inflation would call for, adding “the reason for that is it better funds our apparatus replacement fund.” Also, an increase in assessed values in recent years could help offset the levy increase.

“We’re asking for more than we did last time, but the levy rate will be lower this time,” he said.

Without the levy, Connor said the department would have to look at a 20 percent cut in operations, including staff.

“Our system here of staffing, relies pretty heavily on the use of volunteers, already,” he said, but a lot of volunteers already have day jobs, which could make the day shifts more difficult to cover with the goal of having three firefighters on duty at all times.

“We are really lean, already,” he said. “When you’re really lean to begin with and you have to take a cut, it bites a lot harder.”

For more information on Proposition 1, visit http://www.king27fire.com.

Effective date: Jan. 1, 2017

Needed to pass: 60 percent or greater approval, with a voter turnout of at least 40 percent of the 2012 turnout for the presidential election.