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Plans for fire levy are put on hold

The possibility of a spring levy request that would have increased tax rates for those served by the local fire department has been scrapped.

All those inside the boundaries of Fire District 28 – and that includes the city of Enumclaw – currently contribute $1.09 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. It was widely believed the district would push for a levy lid lift that would have bumped the rate to the legal maximum of $1.50.

Currently, the owner of property valued at $250,000 pays $272.50 annually for fire protection and emergency medical service. If the levy had been placed on the ballot and passed, the yearly tax bill would have increased to $375.

In a prepared statement issued last week, Fire Chief Joe Clow said he and the three-member board of commissioners decided this is the wrong time to ask taxpayers for more. Among the reasons for the change of heart, Clow cited ongoing discussions with district residents, a recent news report on home foreclosures and a face-to-face meeting with County Assessor Lloyd Hara that included “the near-term future of economic conditions in our community.”

During a pair of public sessions this month, Clow and the commissioners heard impassioned pleas from a small-but-vocal group that spending plans be reigned in.

Clow wrote that much has been accomplished in the past few years with regard to firefighting and medical service and, with that in mind, the board believes “now is a good time to slow the process and to evaluate how effective these changes are instead of continuing on to the next phase of this development.”

The next phase would apparently require a tax hike.

Clow said the district will focus on short-term goals rather than issues five to eight years in the future.

“That large capital expenditures will not take place as planned in the next few years and that staffing plans will be on hold for that same period of time,” he said. “The most immediate needs of the department will still be addressed; for example, replacement of equipment and tools that are required to be replaced regularly.”

Clow noted that members of the department live and pay taxes in the district “and we understand the difficulty of these uncertain financial times.”

 

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