News

Lid lift is pass and fail

By Kevin Hanson, The Courier-Herald

Last week's tax measure, pitched jointly by three Plateau fire districts, was passed by voters in a pair of districts - failing only in the Buckley-based District 12.

Early indications are those voters might see the "lid lift" measure again in the fall.

"It certainly provided some reliefŠso we can sustain the current level of service," said Dan Packer, chief of East Pierce Fire and Rescue (District 22), headquartered in Bonney Lake. He said inflation has outpaced the cost of doing business in each of the three districts.

The "lid lift" measure was also supported in District 20, based in South Prairie.

The May 18 ballot measure asked Tri-District voters to raise their tax assessments. Supporters noted the proposal would allow the districts to return funding to previously levels, before anti-tax measures curtailed their ability to collect revenues. The rate had been $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, but had eroded to $1.37.

The additional 13 cents adds up to an additional $26 per year for the owner of property valued at $200,000.

The final, unofficial vote count showed voters in District 22 giving the thumbs-up by a slim margin, 2,558 to 2,448 (51.1 percent support). In District 20, the positive vote was 284 to 215 (56.91 percent support). In District 12, the measure was defeated by a vote of 873 to 705 (44.68 percent support).

Packer said while the fire districts have been recently limited to a 1 percent increase in revenues, the actual cost of running the districts has jumped from 8 to 10 percent annually. The higher costs, he said, is reflected in everything from firefighting supplies to wages and health care for employees.

Packer said the next step will be to attempt to determine why the issue failed in District 12, whether there was a genuine anti-tax sentiment or voters simply weren't certain what was being asked. He still wonders if the ballot language played a role, complaining that Pierce County staff significantly altered what the districts had submitted.

The final product contained too much "techno-babble," Packer said.

Regarding District 12, "I expect they will run it again, probably in September," Packer said.

Representatives from District 12, when contacted, chose not to comment about the outcome.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com

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