South County Politics: Financial impacts of proposed regional fire authority; get your own voters guide

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Proponents and opponents of the proposed South Snohomish County Regional Fire Authority recently sent statements about the financial aspects of forming a regional fire authority.

Formation of the new regional fire authority will be on ballots throughout Lynnwood and the unincorporated areas of south Snohomish County that make up Fire District 1. Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Brier get service from the fire district but voters in those cities don’t vote in district elections.

Ballots for the August primary go to voters by first-class mail Thursday, with voters’ pamphlets sent Wednesday by bulk mail.
Here are statements from proponents and opponent’s of creation of a South Snohomish County Fire aid Rescue Regional Fire Authority:

Proponent statement from Nicola Smith, Thad Hovis, Jim Kenny:

Proposition 1 creates the South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue Regional Fire Authority (RFA), which combines the Lynnwood Fire Department with Fire District 1 (FD1) into a new fire agency. This makes sense because the two departments have been operating together responding to 911 calls for years. But it also makes sense financially.

The RFA’s start-up finances are simple — it will use the currently adopted budgets for both agencies to continue service through 2017 and use currently projected 2018 budgets while remaining within the funding authority approved by voters. FD1 taxpayers will see no tax changes and will benefit by adding two centrally located fire stations. Lynnwood residents will be spared significant budget and staffing increases needed beginning in 2018.

Additionally, the city intends to reduce its collectible tax revenue by the amount saved from no longer funding fire service in 2018.
To date, the city and FD1 have saved over $1 million by blending their management and training operations. Forming the RFA is the next step to make these financial and operational efficiencies permanent. We urge you to vote YES on Proposition 1.

Opponent statement from Ted Hikel:

Fire District 1 needs more money. They considered putting a so-called Benefit Fee on the ballot in 2015 that would raise an additional $1,000,000. But it would require a 60% “Yes” vote. The RFA Planning Committee knew a Regional Fire Authority would need a Benefit Fee but that 60 percent vote was too scary. They could pass the RFA with a simple majority. They would ask for it later.

The quickest way to increase District income was to expand its size. By incorporating Lynnwood into the District they saw an $8,000,000 tax plum there for the taking. With an RFA vote, the City and District combined vote meant that City voters would be outnumbered 4 to 1 and the chances for victory would be theirs. It would only raise taxes in Lynnwood.

Mayor Nicola Smith wants more money. This scheme would allow the city to raise taxes and the raise would be “voted by the people”. It wouldn’t be her responsibility. This cynical view seems to be the position of Mayor Smith and her three Councilmembers, Ross, Goodwin and Boyer. It was Mayor Smith who broke the 3-3 tie to put this on the ballot at the expense of Lynnwood.

Get personalized voters’ guides online

Voters in South Snohomish County and around Washington state can read personal voters’ guides for the Aug. 1 primary election online.

Voters can get the online voter guides now, rather than wait for the voters’ pamphlets to arrive. The Snohomish County elections office sent pamphlets by bulk mail to all residential addresses Wednesday. Ballots go to registered voters by first-class mail Thursday.

While the mailed pamphlets contain information on every contest in Snohomish County, on-line guides are individualized for each voter. So instead of looking at information for three county council districts and tax levies in places all around the county, a voter in downtown Edmonds would find material only about the Edmonds School District, while a voter in the east part of the city would also find information about the Alderwood Wastewater District. Those Edmonds voters can find this by logging in at https://weiapplets.sos.wa.gov/MyVote5/#/login

The voter then enters his or her name and date of birth, being careful not to enter any extra spaces after his or her name. Next, the voter needs to click on “Voters’ Guide.” Then, a voter can click on measures or local candidates.

–By Evan Smith

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

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