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Tax rate to climb for fire service in Enumclaw

The new year will bring new taxes to Enumclaw residents, as they pay for fire protection, emergency medical treatment and ambulance service.

Through Dec. 31, property owners will be paying the city of Enumclaw for such services, just as they have done for decades. The public vote in November 2010 to annex into Fire District 28 – which received 85 percent support – kept the funding system in place for all of 2011 but changes things significantly when the calendar flips to January.

For 2011, the city has paid for the fire department by using money from the general fund. The collection amounts to about 89 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value in support of fire/EMT services. For the owner of property valued at $300,000, that means $267 annually.

Starting in January, when city residents began paying Fire District 28 instead of the city, the collection rate jumps to $1.09 – the same level assessed to rural residents of the district. The owner of a $300,000 property will begin paying $327 annually.

But that’s just the first step.

Fire District 28 commissioners have announced plans for a levy lid lift on an April 2012 ballot, a proposal that would – if supported by voters – push the tax rate higher beginning in 2013.

The April request will ask voters to increase the tax rate to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. Using the same $300,000 property, the annual tax bill would jump to $450.

For city residents, the tax increase would be nearly 70 percent greater in 2013 than in 2011.

The desire for more money can be seen in the district’s plans for staffing and capital improvements.

According to a published budget, the district will have 13 firefighters in 2012 and plans on employing 18 by 2018. The administrative staff, now at four, is projected to increase to five in 2015.

District facilities could play a significant role in spending during the coming years. The department continues to be housed on Wells Street in Enumclaw, in a building owned by the city and rented to District 28 for the nominal sum of $100 per year.

District commissioners, wanting new headquarters, approved the purchase of a 5.85-acre site on Roosevelt Avenue on Enumclaw’s west side. The design of the building has not been tackled, but construction is tentatively planned for 2015. On the schedule for 2016 is improvements to the district’s Station 2 in Cumberland; that project carries an estimated price tag of $1.25 million.

 

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