North Highline Fire District benefit-charge vote ahead August 5th: Presentation @ NHUAC
Heard about the “benefit charge” for the North Highline Fire District that’ll be on the August primary ballot? If not, here’s your primer, from last Thursday night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting:
Lt. Ray Pettigrew stood in for Chief Mike Marrs, who he said couldn’t make it because of illness. With maps and a PowerPoint, he explained the money proposal, as well as some basics about the NHFD itself:
*Each station has 1 engine staffed with three firefighters at any given time, he said – sometimes a bit more because of volunteers.
*Vast majority of the job is going on aid calls
*278 false alarms – “almost one per day”
*42 hazmat calls
*526 “other” calls – illegal burns, barbecues mistaken for fires
About 12 calls a day between the two stations, so “they’re pretty busy.”
He says it’s a matter of financial need – “we’ve done everything we can to try to cut expenses
… we’ve used reserves … we’ve contracted to have Burien chief also be the North Highline chief,” but they’re about out of reserves if no new funding is found. In addition, he noted, the district has gotten smaller, with the 2010 Burien annexation, for example.
Proposition 1 on the August ballot needs a simple yes/no vote. If passed, it sets up a six-year run for the charge – with potential renewals thereafter. It’s not a tax, Pettigrew stressed, “it’s a fee,” and it’s charged based on factors such as square footage and whether a building has sprinklers or not.
For the average owner of a 2,000 square foot home worth $250,000, their tax/fee bill would go up $6/month, he said. It would only be charged for structures, not for empty land. Other districts with a “benefit charge” include Kent, Auburn, Woodinville, and Eastside Fire.
“It allows us to stabilize our funding so we’re not subject to property values going up and down, more ability to plan long range,” he said.
The NHFD commissioners voted at their April meeting to put it on the August ballot.
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