King County Fire District 28 commissioner Larry Jensen explains his position | Letter

Note from Larry Jensen: As a fire commissioner for King County Fire District No. 28, I am not advocating a pro or con vote for lid lift Proposition No. 1. I simply want to get the facts out to the public.

In July of this year, I was appointed by the King County Council as Fire Commissioner, Position No. 2, for King County Fire District No. 28. I accepted this position seriously, wanting to do the right things for the right reasons, with my priority being to maintain our existing level of service and communicate openly with the people. I felt I could provide input to the upcoming issues facing the department.

Alternative funding mechanisms including a possible lid lift proposal to be pursued to maintain the existing levels of service.

Presenting a lid lift proposal had been discussed as a possible funding mechanism by the Fire Commissioners prior to my appointment.

Reviewing the agenda for my first meeting, I realized that a lid lift proposal was on the agenda and needed to be addressed. Before deciding either way, pro or con, I felt I needed to have information on three questions. They were as follows:

• Question No. 1:  Why do we need this lid lift?

• Question No. 2:  How much will this proposal cost the average household in the Fire District?

• Question No. 3:  How will the cost per thousand dollars of assessed valuation compare to our neighbors around us?

• Answering Question No. 1: Six firefighters were added to the staffing level in 2011. This brought the fire district to a staffing level of four firefighters per shift. Two firefighters on the engine, and two firefighters on the aid car handling medical emergencies. This coverage was the first time the district was able to provide this level of service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year.  For a fire district that encompasses 80 square miles and has a population of approximately 20,000 people, I feel this is adequate coverage.

The cost for four of those firefighters was paid largely by a federal Safer Grant, which had been applied for and awarded in 2011. This grant was effective through July 2013, when it expired. I believe the thought process at that time, was that anticipated assessed valuation increases would cover the cost of these Firefighters in 2013. To date, that has not happened. Looking for a possible funding mechanism to assure the existing staffing levels was needed.

• Answering Question No.  2: While looking into the cost of this lid lift, I found the following data. The lid lift proposal is for 30 cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation, or $30 per hundred thousand dollars of assessed valuation. Looking at district property values, it is difficult to say what the average assessed valuation is. I selected $250,000 as an average property value in the fire district. The 30 cent lid lift based on this value of property would total $75 per year or $6.25 per month. Granted, some people’s value could be higher, and some lower, but with these numbers, you should be able to determine your individual costs by your assessed valuation.

• Answering Question No. 3: Looking at King County Fire District No. 28, their assessment is currently at $1.19 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation, and 30 cents per thousand dollars of valuation for King County Emergency Medical Services, totaling $1.49 per thousand of assessed valuation.

After surveying eight of the fire departments around us, I found that all eight were over $2 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. They ranged from $ 2.07 to $ 2.34 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation in total assessments. If we took the current total assessment for King County Fire District. 28 at $1.49 per thousand dollars of assessed value and added the 30 cent lid lift, King County Fire District No. 28 would still be 18 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value less than our closest neighboring fire department costs. Hopefully this data will help you understand the reasoning for this funding mechanism, and the logic behind it.

Please vote responsibly.

Larry Jensen

King County Fire District No. 28 Fire Commissioner – Position No. 2