If you live in the unincorporated areas of North Bend and Snoqualmie, you are part of King County
Fire District 38, and you may be voting next spring on merging with Fire District 10 for form a new Fire Authority – which could use a new way to determine the taxes you pay for fire and emergency services.
King County Fire Districts 10 and 38 invite property owners in their service areas to attend a meeting to learn more about plans to combine into one “fire authority.” King County Fire District 38 serves the unincorporated areas around North Bend and Snoqualmie. Fire District 10 serves Carnation and the unincorporated areas of May Valley, Tiger Mountain, Mirrormont, and Preston.
Both fire districts are part of Eastside Fire & Rescue, a regional partnership with three cities that provides fire and life safety services. The fire districts say working together as one fire authority would sustain emergency service levels for the areas they serve and strengthen the Eastside Fire & Rescue partnership.
The Planning Committee, which includes elected fire commissioners from both districts, will hold three meetings to share information about the proposal:
• February 1, 2016 – 7PM – Station 87, 500 Maloney Grove Ave. SE, North Bend, WA 98045
• February 9, 2016 – 7PM – Station 78, 20720 SE May Valley Rd., Issaquah, WA 98027
• February 10, 2016 – 7PM– Station 85, 3600 Tolt Ave., Carnation, WA 98014
At the February 10 meeting, fire commissioners from both districts will vote on a resolution that will ask voters to form and fund the Eastside Fire Authority on the April 26, 2016 Special Election ballot.
Why a Fire Authority
The Fire Districts say costs continue to increase, with revenue being unstable due to changing property values. Due to the fact that the that both districts serve largely rural and unincorporated areas, there is limited opportunity for growth. In addition, annexations by neighboring cities has reduced the amount of revenue the fire districts have to pay for things like stations, apparatus, equipment, and administrative functions. The districts say by joining together, these fixed costs would be shared by more people, which is more efficient for taxpayers.
Another goal of the fire districts is to be a good partner within Eastside Fire & Rescue, which is more cost-effective and provides a higher level of emergency service than the fire districts or cities could afford on their own. If the fire districts are unable to cover their costs, it could impact the level of service the partner cities of Issaquah, Sammamish and North Bend receive and could place the Eastside Fire & Rescue partnership at risk when the agreement is renegotiated in five years.
Funding the Fire Authority
Under the new fire authority, a majority of the cost to provide emergency services would be funded through a fire levy of $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The remaining amount would be collected through a benefit charge, which is set through a public process each year.
Voters in 10 other Washington communities – including Fire District 10 – have approved a benefit charge because it is a more equitable and stable way to fund emergency services. Smaller structures (such as single-family homes) are charged less than larger buildings because it costs less to defend them in a fire. The charge is based on the size and use of a building as opposed to the value of an entire property, which can fluctuate.
Voters approve a benefit charge every six years, and locally elected board members set the rate once a year through a public process. All property owners have the right to appeal their assessment.
The new fire authority’s benefit charge would be based on Fire District 10’s successful formula. Voters in Fire District 10 renewed their benefit charge in the last election with 79% of the vote. In 2016, the owner of a 2,500 square foot home with a two-car garage will pay approximately $370