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

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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

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