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2022 LEVY LID LIFT, RE-BALANCING THE BUDGET FOR SUSTAINABILITY
Our ability to serve our community starts with our community. We will always need to look to our citizens to help us continue to provide the essential and necessary services for the protection of the health and life safety of the residents of the SVFD Fire District.
Levies are the primary funding source for fire and emergency services provided in the Fire District. This means levies pay for staffing, equipment, operating expenses to provide structure and wildland fire suppressions, advanced life support-paramedics, fire prevention, and other essential services to the citizens in our Fire District.
SVFD has seen significant increases in emergency responses with more than a 44% increase over the last seven years (2015 – 2021). In 2021, SVFD responded to over 18,000 Emergency Medical Services Incidents. Because of this, it is the goal of SVFD to add more paramedics to our emergency response staff to keep up with the growing EMS demands of our communities.
The unbalance of levy funding, increase in 911 call volume, and increase in operating expenses are why we are asking our voters to consider this Fire Levy Lid Lift.
The goal of the Board of Fire Commissioners is to avoid long term indebtedness in the forms of bonds and a position of fiscal conservativeness for the citizens of the SVFD Fire District. The Board of Fire Commissioners has determined that this proposition is necessary to maintain an effective level of services, staffing, equipment, and facilities due to rising costs.
SVFD currently funds roughly 61% of our daily operations and our capital replacement needs through our Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Levy. The Levy Lid Lift is for our Regular Fire Levy, which is our permanent levy and now only accounts for roughly 39% of our overall budget. This is a dangerous position to put our fire department in because SVFD is too dependent on funding from a non-permanent special levy (M&O). The Levy Lid Lift will help change this position, making us a more financially secure fire department. In short, this will allow us to be less dependent on our current M&O Levy with the goal of lowering it in the future.
SVFD is a junior taxing district with the authority to tax property at $1.50 per $1,000 of property value. In 2001, I-747 capped the tax at 1% per year growth on the budget. As the assessed value of property has increased, the levy rate has been reduced from $1.50 down to $1.0457.
The legislature passed RCW 84.55.050 which allows the voters to approve a levy lid lift for a maximum of six years and to set the annual levy rate. In the City of Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Millwood, and our unincorporated areas of Spokane County, a levy lid lift to $1.50 per $1,000 for assessed value on a $400,000 home will equate to an additional $15.14 per month in taxes.
It is recommended that the Fire District restore its regular real property tax levy rate to $1.50 per $1000 of assessed valuation in 2022 for collection in 2023 for sustainability.
- Julie Happy