CFAI Accreditation Logo 2021-2026

SVFD News

Recent Articles

Winter Is Coming

Now is the time to prepare your home to be fire safe. More fires happen in the winter months than any other time of the year. During the cold...

read more

The 2023 M&O Levy; Everything You Need to Know

Nov 23, 2022

The M&O deadline to vote on the M&O Levy is coming up quick! This page is your one stop shop for everything levy related. If you go through the information here and still have questions, please email levycommittee@spokanevalleyfire.com and we will answer your questions. Thank you for your continued support and remember to VOTE by February 14th!

2023 M&O Levy Presentation.

 

Frequently Asked Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Levy Questions

 

  1. Didn’t we just approve a levy?

In 2022, voters approved a Levy Lid Lift which rebalanced our budget. This was not a new levy or renewal of any other levies. The levy lid lift made it so that the regular fire levy now funds 68% of our budget and the M&O finances 32% of our budget. The M&O previously funded 62% of our budget.  More importantly, this allows us to ask for less money on our replacement M&O Levy.

 

  1. Why do you need new equipment, can’t you just maintain what you have?

Even with proper use and maintenance, our equipment gets worn out or broken over time. Therefore, that equipment can become more expensive to maintain and/or unsafe to use. Some of our vehicles are over 20 years old.  The M&O Levy gives us the resources to maintain what we do have and replace the things that need replacing, so we can stay fiscally responsible and safe.

 

  1. My property taxes are increasing, you are already getting enough money from me, aren’t you?

The replacement M&O Levy will be the lowest levy rate, if passed, since 1988.  We are asking for $25 million per year (2024 – 2027) instead of the previous $30 million. In addition, we are giving $13.5 million back to our taxpayers in 2023 since the Levy Lid Lift passed in 2022.  Finally, if the M&O Levy passes, then the combined levy rate from both the Regular Levy and M&O Levy will be the lowest combined levy rate since 1990.  Ultimately, you will pay less in property taxes for the next 4 years and still receive all the benefits of living in our fire district.

 

  1. What are you doing to make tax dollars stretch further?

We are a fiscally responsible fire department with no outstanding debts. Additionally, our department has a Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) and Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE) Accreditation and maintains a WSRB Class 2 rating which helps reduce insurance rates for home and business owners. The M&O Levy funding helps us maintain that rating and accreditation.

 

  1. Does SVFD receive money from the cities within the fire district or from the state or county?

No. SVFD is a Junior Taxing Fire District, and we are funded directly by a Regular Fire Levy and the M&O Levy. We must go back to the voters in our service area every 4 years for the M&O Levy.

 

  1. Don’t you have money in reserves?

Yes, however, most of that money is earmarked for emergencies and to cover the cost of doing business in between our bi-annual levy payments.  It would be irresponsible to overtax our citizens and create a larger reserve.  We tax minimally to use what we need and keep 25% of our Operating Budget per SVFD Fire Commissioner Policy in reserve to cover emergencies, and gaps in collection.

 

  1. A recession is coming, will you still have enough money to fund all the needed services even if the M&O passes?

Yes, we have financially forecasted the amount needed even if another economic downturn occurs.

 

  1. What does the M&O levy do?

M&O stands for Maintenance and Operations. The M&O Levy provides our department with additional funding that ensures we can repair our equipment, replace outdated vehicles, continue providing our emergency services, and add additional Paramedic Firefighters to keep up with the increasing 911 calls for Advanced Life Services (ALS) medical emergencies.

 

  1. Can you help me understand why this levy is needed?

The Spokane Valley Fire Department (SVFD) is totally funded by TWO LEVIES. The first levy is our Regular Fire Levy.  It is permanent; however, by WA Statute (RCW 84.55), we are capped at $1.50/$1,000 of your Assessed Valuation (AV) AND we are also capped at a 1% raise in the levy rate annually, again per state law.  In short, the funding we receive from our Regular Fire Levy cannot support the SVFD by itself.  The State of WA recognizes this; however, they will not change it.  The State, instead of fixing the problem, allows us to get the needed extra funding through a Special Excess Levy.  Therefore, our second of two levies is the MAINTENANCE & OPERATIONS (M&O) LEVY—to be voted on by the public on February 14, 2023.  In fact, there are three Special Excess Levy options: 1) M&O Levy; 2) Capital Levy; or 3) an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Levy.  The Capital Levy is for capital items only.  The EMS Levy is for EMS items only.  The M&O Levy can be used for any items that are needed—which is why we are trying to keep it.

 

  1. Is there not normal operating funds available from the County or the City of Spokane Valley to help pay for the costs for which the levy is requested?

No.  Although our name implies that we are part of the City of Spokane Valley, we are not.  Nor are we tied to Spokane County Government.  We are a separate Junior Taxing Government Agency.  We receive No Funding from anyone but the taxpayers.

 

  1. Generally, I am opposed to more taxes on the assumption that adequate funds are available from current sources. Plus, I also believe most organizations, including the fire department, can improve operations and reduce unnecessary costs.

Currently, you are already paying for the M&O Levy.  While we are asking for a “new” levy, it is not new.  It’s a replacement levy.  The SVFD has been using the M&O Levy for a long time.  The reason it’s being talking about right now is due to that fact that it is expiring.  You see, unlike the permanent Regular Fire Levy, the M&O Levy is NOT permanent and requires a public super majority (60%) vote to continue collecting it every 4 years.  Again, that’s why we are putting this before the voters in February—its time and it expires at the end of 2023.

 

With that we do have good news. The amount we received for the Levy Lid Lift on our Regular Fire Levy has allowed us to drop our 2024-2027 M&O Levy amount request.  In fact, we—your Spokane Valley FD—is not collecting $13.5 million of the $30 million dollars of the M&O Levy for 2023 (money that we can collect for 2023). We did this to show support for our community due to the negative economic impact affecting us all.  How many government agencies do you know that have done the same for everyone in their community?

 

Additionally, the M&O Levy amount we’re asking for ($1.08/$1,000 AV) will be the lowest M&O Levy rate that you will be paying for since 1988.  And the combined levy rate you will be paying on both levies will be the lowest since 1990 ($2.58/$1,000 AV).  In short, we’re fiscally responsible and are only asking for what we need to provide the best FD Service we can.

 

  1. Every time a levy appears on a ballot, we are told that if it is not approved, the world will collapse.

We are sorry that the message you are receiving is that the “world will collapse.”  However, the fact of the matter is that if we lose the M&O Levy, then we will close at the very least 3 fire stations, shutdown 6 emergency response units, and layoff 66 personnel at the end of the year.  That will impact a lot of things.  For example, you will pay more in homeowner’s insurance due to less fire coverage, there will be less Paramedic Firefighters, and thusly, less Advanced Life Support medical coverage provided; and there will be significant wait times for responses due to less units and Firefighters on the streets.  That’s not being threatening nor lying, that’s being truthful, factual, and transparent with one’s community.  Whether you choose to vote yes, or no is up to you, I only ask that you vote informed.

 

  1. Can you just be more transparent and help me see why this levy is needed?

See all responses above.  Whether you choose to vote yes or no is up to you, we only ask that you vote informed.  Thank you for your time.

 

How does a Fire District get its funding for Maintenance and Operations (M&O)?

Junior taxing Fire Districts must go out for Levies every 4 years for funding.  The Maintenance and Operations Levy (M&O) is NOT a new tax but rather a renewal of funding that must be voter approved.

Spokane Valley Fire Department (SVFD) last asked for community approval in 2019.  Now, 4 years later, we must ask again for our community to vote on our M&O Levy.  On February 14, 2023, this ask will once again be on the special election ballot.  What is significant about this ask is SVFD has considered the impact our community is feeling from the state of the current economy.  We are feeling it too. With that in mind, we are asking for far less.  In fact, our M&O is usually a $30 million dollar ask. At this time, we have re-organized some of our needs and postponed them.  We have reduced our ask to an amount not seen since 1988.

We hope our community understands the impact Spokane Valley Fire Department (SVFD) has on public safety.  We are seeing significant increases in emergency responses with more than a 44% increase over the last seven years (2015 – 2021).  In 2021, SVFD emergency response was over 22,000 and that number is even higher in 2022.  At the end of November our Year-to-Date response for 2022 is 22,540.  We are literally “running the tires” off our emergency response vehicles.

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.  We ask that you please take the time to vote on the February 14, 2023, ballot.

Sincerely,

SVFD Fire Chief, Frank Soto Jr

2023 M&O Levy Flyer

Did you Know?

 

  • You can sign up for a station tour. Great for small groups.
  • You should replace the batteries in your smoke alarms twice a year.
  • Creating a defensible space with regards to wildfires could just save your home or property.

Media Contact

  • Julie Happy
  • 509-892-4155

Commissioner Patrick Burch

Board Member Since: July 18, 2016
Current term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Burch was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in July 2016 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. He became a volunteer member of the Department’s CERT Team in 2008 and later served as a team leader/member of Fire Corps.

“I admire the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s focus on continuous improvement. Our dedication to the community, fiscal responsibility and the fact that we are one of the few accredited fire departments in the State of Washington all make SVFD great!”

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Burch was elected by voters in November 2017.

Commissioner Mike Kester

Board Member Since: January 1, 2020
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Mike Kester was elected to the Board of Fire Commissioners in November, 2019.

Commissioner Kester grew up in the Spokane area and has a deep appreciation for just how fortunate we all are to live in this beautiful area. He believes that being involved in this community is not something to take lightly.

His background includes joining the United States Coast Guard (U.S.C.G) after high school and serving on a port firefighting boat doing search and rescue in Portland, Oregon.  After the Coast Guard, he attended the University of Montana earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Resource Management.  He then went on to work for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, serving in their Parks Department.

Spokane was the next step in his career. He  went to work for the Burlington Santa Fe Railroad and the next 22 years was spent as a conductor moving freight. Commissioner Kester  retired in 2010 after a workplace injury and now,  he and his wife enjoy making meals for World War II Veterans, helping out at the YMCA ,and providing meals for those in need.

“In the 25 years of being a resident of the Spokane Valley the professionalism of the SVFD has inspired me to take an active part in bettering our community. We have one of the best fire departments in the whole Pacific Northwest. My wife and I have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. I have dedicated my life to keeping them safe.  I want to apply that dedication to our community.  Keeping us all safe is a goal we should all aspire to in one way or another. Communication within the department and with the public is, and always will be one of my primary goals.”

Commissioner John Guarisco

Board Member since: August 27, 2018
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2027

Commissioner Guarisco was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in August 2018 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. Commissioner Guarisco founded Marjoni Marketing in 2004 and in 2010 merged with MDI marketing. He then pursued Real Estate, earning his license and now, currently serves the greater Spokane area as a licensed Realtor. He has long been active in the community and has won numerous awards during his career including the Volunteer of the Year (2014) and the Community Caring Award (2010) from the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.  He is a member of the Greater Spokane Valley Rotary Club and holds an AA degree from Spokane Falls Community College.

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Guarisco was elected by voters in November 2019.

Commissioner Bill Anderson

Board Member since: January 1, 2000
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2023

Commissioner Anderson served our community as a Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighter for 29 years. Throughout his career, he worked as a firefighter, dispatcher and engineer before he was promoted and became an officer. He was Station Captain of Millwood Station 2 when he retired in 1999. During his years as firefighter, he was an active leader of Spokane Valley Firefighters Local 876 and served as a trustee on the Washington State Council of Firefighters for 25 years.

“It’s important to me that we continue the good service we’ve always given the people. We’ve accomplished a lot and are pulling in the same direction to get better. I’m very proud of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.”

Commissioner Brian Asmus

Board Member Since: June 14, 2021
Current term expires: 

Commissioner Brian Asmus was appointed to the Spokane Valley Fire Department Board of Fire Commissioners in 2021.

Commissioner Asmus is the former Liberty Lake Police Chief and current Director of Safety and Security at Central Valley School District (CVSD).

“Brian Asmus brings extensive Public Safety leadership experience, and a long history of being actively engaged in his community to his new role as a SVFD Commissioner,” said SVFD Fire Chief, Bryan Collins. “During his time as a Police Chief, Brian interacted with SVFD firefighters and administrators on a regular basis, making him very familiar with our structure, standing within our communities, as well as with many of our current SVFD board members and personnel. Brian’s experience working and collaborating on regional issues aligns nicely with SVFD’s philosophy and will help us continue to be a catalyst for local and regional excellence and innovation.”