During the Jan. 11 meeting of the King County Fire District 28 commissioners, the board voted unanimously to place a levy lid lift on the April 26 ballot.
The members discussed the need and reasons for the levy lid lift.
The last levy proposal the district ran was voted down in November 2013. According to the district, following the levy failure two firefighters and two of the office staff were laid off.
Commissioner Angie Stubblefield described the fire district need for more revenue to provide necessary services as “pretty darn bleak.” She addressed her thoughts about why the previous levy failed and why this one should be approved by voters.
“We have reached the point in time where we have done everything we can,” Stubblefield said. “I was one of those people when I was first elected I voted no for the levy, and I voted no because we had misappropriated the money we were given in my opinion, and violated the public’s trust by spending money so quickly and not with thought. Since that time I have come on as a commissioner and we have straightened that piece out. We are very, very transparent…. We are also very thoughtful about the amount of money we are spending.”
Stubblefield said the added revenue is needed for both service and equipment.
“I have a plectron (emergency radio receiver) in my house, and I hear the calls going out for Fire District 28 as well as 44,” she said. “I am hearing multiple and sometimes triple calls, where we’re not able to get to them because we don’t have the ability or manpower or resources to be able to do that…. We need to actually have more money to deal with what we have. We have literally cut this pig that was fat into a really thin pig. There are no more additional dollars to sink into the things that are coming at us. We need $650,000…. There is not money to buy the additional bunker gear. We’ve worked really hard to get additional volunteers into the program but what good are they when we don’t have the bunker gear to put them into? So they can’t go on calls.”
Commissioner Stan McCall said, “To staff one position 24 hours a day it takes five full-time employees. We have 13 firefighters that work for Enumclaw Fire District 28. So we can staff roughly two, two-and-a-half positions 24 hours a day, and this is a 24 hours a day operation. That gets us somewhere but not really where we want to go. We are providing a level of service that is very good. Our firefighters are working very hard. We have a cadre of volunteers that work really well. But you can’t count on volunteers every day, 24 hours a day all the time. They do provide a level of service and supplement our service. But it only gets you so far.”
McCall and Stubblefield noted there are fire engines and other gear that need to be replaced and each said there is no money to replace it.
“(There are) self-contained breathing apparatus every firefighter has to have, otherwise they stand outside a burning home and they don’t go in,” McCall said. “Those devices are fairly spendy (about $5,000) and they expire and it is against the law to use them.”
McCall and Stubblefield pointed to the need for $650,000 to replace the self-contained breathing apparatus, bunker gear and other fire equipment.
“But if we don’t have that amount of money like we don’t now, then it becomes $850,000 next year, then a million the year after that,” McCall said. “And that’s never going to go away, and it’s never going to get better. We are just going to have to have more revenue in order to answer those questions to solve and those problems.”
Stubblefield said the insurance rating for the district could be downgraded, which means “you will pay more for insurance for your house, your business. By trying to be cheap and not paying for the increase levy, you could be paying an increase in insurance for you house.”
McCall said, “We are taxing our district, our taxpayers, our voters at a lower rate then every other fire district around us. So we need to catch up, so we can provide the level of service every other fire district is providing.”
Stubblefield said, “I don’t believe in scare tactics; I think that’s the wrong thing to do. I do want to tell you though, with these calls we are getting, these multiple calls we are getting, how would you like to be No. 2 or No. 3 with a life threatening situation going on and nobody is coming to your house because they are all going to the first house or maybe the second, but they can’t make it to the third? If we lose a levy I can tell you right now we are going to lose three personal…. If we fail this levy… we are not going to have the ability to go perhaps even to the second call. So basically how lucky do you feel?”
Commissioner Dave Hannity added, “It’s amazing…. This is the same exact vote we ran two years ago, and now we’re facing it again. This is going to need a second and I’m going to give it.”
Stubblefield made the motion and Hannity seconded a resolution directing staff to prepare a resolution for the April 26 election ballot requesting a levy lid lift to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. According to the district residents currently pay $1.03 per $1,000 of assessed property value.