District 10 fire service benefit charge will be on Aug. 3 ballot

Voters in King County Fire Protection District 10 will be asked to renew a fire benefit charge in the Aug. 3 election.

The benefit charge is replacing an existing one, which is set to expire. Since the charge was first approved by voters in 2003, it has been renewed every six years. This time, the district is asking voters to extend it for 10 years to allow for more financial security. The fire district is part of Eastside Fire and Rescue, which provides firefighting and EMS services in many areas of the Snoqualmie Valley. The service benefit charge would only impact those living inside District 10 boundaries.

“It’s not a new tax, it’s just an extension,” said Dana Schutter, battalion chief of community services for Eastside Fire and Rescue.

The benefit charge accounts for nearly one quarter of the district’s emergency services funding. The current benefit charge is 29 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, on average. The rest of the district’s funding comes from a tax of $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value. This is charged by the King County Assessor’s office, and paid through property taxes.

Voters will be asked to renew the emergency services fund at the same rate. Schutter said that since 2017, the district was able to reduce this service charge from 68 cents to its current rate of 29 cents on average by creating efficiencies.

While the rate is 29 cents on average, it can vary. Since it is a benefits charge, it is calculated differently for each building based on how far away it is from a fire department, and how much resources it would take for the fire department to fight a fire. This means that larger buildings generally have higher rates, while smaller buildings have lower benefit charges.

If the charge is not approved in August, the district could place it on the November ballot. If it is not passed at that point, rates would actually increase for most people. If the service charge isn’t approved, then the levy rate would default to its maximum of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value to compensate for the loss of the charge.

Seniors, people with disabilities, exempt properties and low-income households retain any current exemptions to the benefit service charge they may have through King County. There’s no charge for undeveloped land, and there are discounts for sprinkler and fire alarm systems for commercial and apartment buildings.

During an April 5 meeting, the district’s Board of Commissioners approved the service charge measure to appear on the Aug. 3 ballot. Local groups and organizations that want more info can contact Jamie Formisano at 425-313-3228 to schedule a time for Fire Chief Jeff Clark to talk about the service charge.

Between 2019 and 2020, there was a 9.8% increase in calls for service in District 10, for a total of 1,651 calls. There was also a 15% increase in EMS calls, and a 16.8% increase in total calls since 2016.