August 1st Ballot Measure
FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT NO. 1
CHELAN COUNTY, WASHINGTON
PROPOSITION NO. 1
AUTHORIZING REGULAR PROPERTY TAX LEVIES FOR FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES
The Board of Fire Commissioners of Fire Protection District No. 1, Chelan County, Washington, adopted Resolution No. 17-03 concerning a proposition to retain firefighters and hire seasonal wildland firefighters. This proposition would set the 2018 property tax levy rate at $1.42 per $1,000 of Assessed Valuation (from 1.37 per $1,000 of Assessed Valuation in 2017) and allow an annual increase of up to 6% in the successive years between 2018 and 2022, never to exceed the statutory maximum of $1.50 per thousand. The maximum allowable levy in 2022 (not greater than $1.50) shall serve as the base for subsequent levy limitations under RCW 84.55.
Should this proposal be approved?
YES ( )
NO ( )
EXPLANATORY STATEMENT – PROPOSITION NO. 1
This measure seeks to continue the funding for 6 grant funded firefighters, improve our response capabilities, and be more proactive in the prevention of the negative effects of wildfires and structure fires. The District’s levy rate would increase from $1.37 to $1.42 in the first year (5 cents) and it’s anticipated to eventually reach up to $1.50 within the next 5 years. The fluctuation is dependent on the subsequent year’s assessed valuation for the entire Fire District. The levy rate by statute will never be above $1.50. For a home assessed at $250,000, the initial 5 cent increase would equal $12.50 per year ($1.04 per month). If the increase in the levy rate was the full 13 cents, which we anticipate will happen through a stair-step process, it would cost the same homeowner $32.50 per year ($2.71 per month).
Our request for an increase in the levy rate will allow us to retain firefighters, increase our firefighting capabilities, and grow fire prevention activities. The measure would stair-step the District’s anticipated funding needs over the next few years:
Funds from this measure would allow us to hire seasonal wildland firefighters beginning in 2018. The seasonal firefighters would be used for wildfire prevention activities (fuel reduction, home assessments, training, etc...) and augment the District’s existing wildfire response capabilities during the fire season.
Late in 2016, the Fire District received a federal grant to hire 6 additional fulltime firefighters. The grant fully funds the 6 positions for 2 years. Funding from this measure would allow us to retain these firefighters past 2018; otherwise, we would lose these 6 firefighters.
If assessed valuation projections of the Fire District are accurate, in 2019, the funds from this measure would provide funding for fire prevention firefighters to supplement our response capability, provide formal public education, and perform general fire prevention activities.
If Proposition 1 does not pass, Fire District 1 will not have the available financial resources to retain the 6 grant funded firefighters; the District's fire fighting resources and personnel will be reduced from the present levels.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Why does the Fire District need more money?
Adequate staffing is always a concern. Chelan County Fire District 1 is a combination fire department, which means we rely on both career and volunteer firefighters to respond to emergencies. The District recently increased its career staffing by 6 firefighters through a federal grant that fully funds their positions for 2017 and 2018. The District is requesting additional funding to maintain these 6 firefighters after the grant ends and allow us to hire seasonal firefighters to augment our wildfire response and prevention activities.
The consolidation of Wenatchee Fire and Rescue with Chelan County Fire District 1 allowed us to be more efficient with our operations and completely separated the fire service from the City. However, the consolidation did not reduce the need for additional staffing. We’ve increased our response capabilities with a Volunteer Resident Firefighter program and with the grant funded firefighters. Over the previous 10 years, the Wenatchee Fire Department’s staffing was reduced. This reduction is what made the Fire District eligible for the grant.
2. Seems like we just passed a levy a couple of years ago - why do we need another one? And, how did you use that money?
In 2014 voters approved a levy which was tied to Capital Replacement and Volunteer Services. This funding is what has enabled us to increase our Volunteer program with 12 Resident Volunteer Firefighters who support our 24-hour staffing. Now the District also has a capital replacement plan that looks out over the next 20 years. The plan includes replacement of all our rolling stock, personal protective equipment, and facilities over the life of the plan. We’ve replaced the older fire engines, standardized our air packs and started on the replacement of the fire station at the bottom of Squilchuck (which is partially funded through a federal grant.) Future funds collected from the 2014 levy are dedicated to Capital items and Volunteers and are anticipated to meet those funding needs.
3. How will this additional money be used? What are you doing to reduce the risk of another catastrophic fire?
The funds generated from this levy will be used to maintain our current staffing and allow the District to hire additional seasonal staffing for assisting with wildfire emergencies. The District will use the initial funds in 2018 to hire seasonal firefighters that will be working on wildfire prevention activities such as performing home assessments, public outreach, and fuel reductions; these are all activities that will reduce the impacts from wildfire. The firefighters will also be available to directly respond to a wildfire incident within the District and provide more personnel for a quick fire attack. There are few career firefighters in Chelan and Douglas Counties, which mean we rely heavily on a volunteer response. Having more firefighters able to respond immediately is key to catching a fire while it’s smaller and more manageable.
4. What is this tax increase going to cost the average tax payer? By voting yes do I guarantee my property taxes will go up every year?
The Fire District currently collects $1.37 per $1,000 of assessed value and the District is asking for an increase of $0.05 per $1,000 in 2018 (up from $1.37 to $1.42). That’s five cents for every thousand dollars of assessed value of your home. If your home were worth $250,000 you’d pay an additional $12.50 per year. Depending on the future assessed value of the entire Fire District the levy rate could go up or down year-to-year but it can never go higher than $1.50. The ballot measure identifies a 6% inflationary factor, but that does not mean the levy rate will go up by 6%. If we see steady growth in the economy and assessed valuations, we anticipate by the year 2022 it may be up to $1.50 per $1,000. A $250,000 home would then be paying an additional $32.50 per year. If we experience more robust growth in our assessed value the levy rate would stay the same or actually decrease. In any scenario, the levy rate can never be higher than the statutory maximum on $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.
5. Why are you "stair stepping" the increase in upcoming years? Why not ask the voters for a set amount? Is stair stepping the increase another way of getting more money?
The Fire District did not ask for the statutory maximum of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value all at once because we currently have grant funding to cover the cost of the newly hired 6 firefighters. The grant funding runs out at the end of 2018, and the District needs to have funding in place in 2019 to maintain those positions. The district is asking for the funding to stair-step to hire seasonal wildland firefighters in 2018, like the Forest Service and Department of Natural Resources, to assist with reducing the risks from wildfires.
This levy is for staffing and if the District needed the entire amount right off the bat, we’d ask our residents to support that need. We’re asking for the funding that is needed for current plan to retain the 6 firefighters hired with grant funds and hire seasonal wildland firefighters to augment wildfire prevention and response capabilities.