Fire Districts 10 and 38 in east King County have unanimously passed a resolution asking voters to combine both agencies into one fire authority. The measure will be on the November 8th General Election ballot.
Many fire districts are merging to share costs and improve efficiencies for taxpayers. The fire districts are losing property and tax revenue to neighboring cities from annexations. Fire district officials say that working together will maintain emergency service levels and the quality of emergency services families and businesses receive.
“We understand that annexations are part of growth management, but it has real consequences on funding for emergency services in our communities,” said Mike Mitchell, who is an elected fire commissioner from Fire District 10 and also serves as chair for Eastside Fire Authority planning committee. “Combining the fire districts is more efficient for taxpayers and will maintain service levels long-term.”
According to a press release, if approved by voters in November, property owners in Fire District 10 would see a tax decrease of 23 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Costs climbed sharply for taxpayers in the unincorporated areas of May Valley, Tiger Mountain, Mirrormont, and Preston after Fire District 10 lost almost 3,000 parcels of land to Sammamish in the Klahanie annexation.
Fire District 38 is at risk of losing almost 25 percent of its revenue through annexations by North Bend and Snoqualmie. It’s current levy rate is not enough to maintain emergency service levels, which is why property owners would see an average tax increase of 20 cents per $1,000.
The fire authority would be funded with a traditional fire levy and a benefit charge. Voters in 11 other local Washington communities, including Fire District 10, have approved this funding model because they feel it is a more equitable way to fund emergency services.
The benefit charge replaces approximately a third of the fire levy with an annual charge based on the size of a building and its risk for fire. Smaller structures (such as single-family homes) are charged less than larger buildings because it costs less to defend them in a fire. The benefit charge is voter-approved and adjusted annually up or down to meet the demand for service in the community.
Property owners are encouraged to see what they would pay for emergency services in 2016 compared to 2017 under the fire authority. The fire districts are developing a comparison calculator that will be available on their web pages at www.eastsidefire-rescue.org within the next few weeks.
Fire Districts 38, 10 History
In 1948, the citizens in the area surrounding the City of North Bend petitioned to form a fire protection district. The area became King County Fire Protection District 38. The fire district currently serves the unincorporated areas around North Bend and Snoqualmie.
King County Fire District 10 serves Carnation and the unincorporated areas of May Valley, Tiger Mountain, Mirrormont, and Preston. On January 1, 1999, the City of Issaquah and Fire District 10 combined to form Eastside Fire and Rescue. In January of 2000, the City of North Bend, Sammamish and Fire District 38 joined the partnership.