South County Politics: Preview of arguments on regional fire authority ballot measure

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Lynnwood voters and voters in unincorporated areas served by Snohomish County Fire District 1 will decide in the Aug. 1 election whether to form a regional fire authority.

The cities of Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Brier get service from the fire district by contract, but residents of those cities don’t vote in district elections.

Although City of Edmonds voters won’t see the regional fire authority measure on the ballot, those who live in unincorporated Snohomish County areas and have an Edmonds address — such as Esperance or Picnic Point — will.

Here’s material that will appear in local voters’ pamphlets that officials will send by bulk mail to all residential addresses July 12.

Ballots will go to voters by first-class mail starting July 13.

The Voters’ pamphlet material:

CREATION OF SOUTH SNOHOMISH COUNTY FIRE & RESCUE REGIONAL FIRE AUTHORITY

Creation of South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue Regional Fire Authority

Ballot title:

The City Council of the City of Lynnwood and the Board of Commissioners of Snohomish County Fire Protection District No. 1 have adopted a Joint Resolution approving the South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue Regional Fire Authority Plan (“Plan”) concerning the creation of a Regional Fire Protection Service Authority.

This proposition would approve the Plan and create the South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue Regional Fire Authority (“Authority”), effective Oct. 1, 2017, to provide fire protection and emergency medical services in the City and District. The Authority would be funded by property tax ($1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value) and other sources identified in the Plan. The City and District levy capacities would be reduced to offset the Authority’s levy.

Should the Plan to create a Regional Fire Protection Service Authority be approved?

Yes __

No __

Explanatory Statement:

Proposition 1 asks voters to decide whether to form a new South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue Regional Fire Authority (RFA) encompassing the boundaries of the City of Lynnwood and Snohomish County Fire District 1. The City of Lynnwood currently operates and funds the Lynnwood Fire Department to provide fire and emergency medical services within its boundaries. Snohomish County Fire District 1 currently operates independently to fund and provide these services to residents in the unincorporated communities within its boundaries. If Proposition 1 passes, the Lynnwood Fire Department and Fire District 1 would merge into one organization, the RFA, effective Oct. 1, 2017, if authorized by state law; otherwise the effective date will be Jan. 1, 2018. The RFA will initially be governed by an appointed board consisting of two Lynnwood City Councilmembers and five Fire District 1 Commissioners, and will transition to a board of commissioners elected directly by voters in the RFA. The RFA will be primarily funded by a property tax of $1.50 per thousand of assessed valuation. This funding source will replace the District’s property tax levy rate of $1.50 per thousand and will reduce the City’s property tax capacity by up to $1.50 per thousand.

Pro Statement:
Vote Yes on Proposition 1.

Fire District 1 and the City of Lynnwood Fire Department have been providing great service to you for decades. Now they want to work together as a new fire agency, called a regional fire authority, that will be named the South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue (SSCFR). Voting Yes will create the SSCFR.

The City and the District have already blended their management teams to be more efficient and save taxpayers $1.2 million this year. Now they want to combine all of their fire fighters together to give you better services, which include:

  • Faster emergency responses
  • Saving money
  • Coordinating training

The SSCFR will be governed by a 7-member board that is elected by the voters of the SSCFR, which will ensure local control of our fire service.

The City benefits by avoiding new expenses for personnel and equipment needed to address increasing calls and population, and it gains the resources of a 14-station department.

The SSCFR, like the ten other regional fire authorities in Washington State, will have the economy of scale to better tackle the future challenges of fire service in technology, regulations, and medical services. Taxes will remain what they are today: the equivalent of approximately $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value for the fire levy. The City intends to reduce its collectible tax revenue by the amount which would be saved from the budget.

To learn more visit www.LynnwoodFD1RFA.com.

Vote Yes on Proposition 1.

Con Statement:
RFA?? THIS IS ALL ABOUT MONEY! YOUR MONEY!!

Three City Council members, the Mayor and five Fire District Commissioners voted to put the RFA on the ballot without a public hearing or adequate outreach.

They “NEED” more of your money.

If you live in Lynnwood, the RFA will levy more than $8,000,000 in new taxes yearly, affecting homeowners AND renters. Level of Service may be reduced, cutting the number of firefighters on duty as they did in Edmonds. Lynnwood 2018 budget increases for fire staff will NOT be honored by the RFA (per District Asst. Chief).

This is about loss of local control. Lynnwood will lose control of costs, level of service, administration, 2 fire stations, fire engines, ladder truck, all equipment and millions of dollars in reserve funds. The Lynnwood Fire Department will unnecessarily become a part of a large, costly bureaucracy. The RFA will control the use of all funds, not the residents of Lynnwood.

If you live in the Fire District, the $8,000,000 from Lynnwood will not cover the $12,000,000 current costs of Lynnwood fire service. A new EMS levy and “Benefit Fee” will be required to make up the difference. That “Benefit Fee” allows the RFA and the City to raise tax bills even higher. A Fire Commissioner publicly admitted the Fire District gave a “sweetheart deal” to another city in order to get the contract, knowing it would not cover costs.

VOTE “NO” ON PROP. 1

THIS IS ALL ABOUT MONEY! YOUR MONEY!! It’s that simple.

Con committee members:
Statement prepared by Con Committee: Carol F. McMahon, Denice L. Patrick and Ted Hikel

Pro committee rebuttal:
The SSCFR will provide more efficient, sustainable service while keeping local control and be well positioned to handle future growth and fire service challenges. Regionalization is good government in action but it only happens if you vote Yes!

This consolidation proposal is unanimously endorsed by the Lynnwood City Council, the Fire District 1 Board of Commissioners and the professional firefighters that serve you.

Vote Yes on Proposition 1.

Pro committee members:
Statement prepared by Pro Committee: Jim Kenny, Nicola Smith and Thad Hovis

Con committee rebuttal:
Don’t be fooled. This is still about money, reduced service and loss of local control for Lynnwood citizens. When have they ever lowered taxes and fees? Lately it’s been:

Higher property taxes Higher sales taxes

Higher rents Higher public utility fees and taxes

Higher car tab fees Higher Swim and Recreation fees

They want more of your money for a bloated bureaucracy, sacrificing service.

Support the Lynnwood Fire Department

Vote “NO” on Proposition 1!

–By Evan Smith

Evan Smith can be reached at schsmith@frontier.com.

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