The Citizens for Smart Taxes town hall meeting at the library was well-attended Wednesday night. I would like to thank everyone who attended. I would especially like to thank John Bloomer, Greg Adams and Larry Jensen from the King County Fire District 28 for adding input and feedback to the slide presentation. I would also like to thank fire district commissioner candidate Angie Stubblefield for attending and answering questions posed by the audience. Her willingness to meet one-on-one with Enumclaw residents was invaluable. Opposing candidate Elbert Reed declined to participate. Reed indicated he would participate only if there were no direct questions from the audience and only if there would be no videotaping during the meeting.
With 70 people in attendance, many people had questions during the presentation. Unfortunately we ran out of time to fully brainstorm ideas on how to keep jobs without raising taxes. I think one of the best ideas was suggested in the Fire District Master Plan dated January 2008. At that time, it was recommended to combine KCFD 44 and KCFD 28 and the city of Enumclaw and merge into a fire authority. This would have reduced the number of fire chiefs and allowed more funds for firefighters. It also would have allowed oversight from the mayor of Enumclaw, the mayor of Black Diamond and council members from both cities.
If this single recommendation would have been implemented, I believe the district would not be broke today. For those who don’t know, the study conducted for the 2008 Fire District Master Plan cost the taxpayers $50,000.
There are still very big concerns over money. Our fire district needs help, but not by agreeing to more taxes with the levy. Before the merger, the fire district was able to save $2,100,000 in a reserve account. These funds along with the grant money of over $600,000 are now depleted due to lack of oversight on spending. These are big red flags. Giving the fire district more funds by way of the tax levy does not fix the problem, it only exacerbates the problem. Additionally, if you look at the commissioner’s minutes from Sept. 9, 2013, on the fire district website, the report shows an account balance of $312,324. Thirty days later, on Oct. 7, 2013, the report shows a zero balance left in the district account. I will post a picture of the statement on our Facebook page, “Enumclaw Citizens For Smart Taxes.”
Comments to the editor last week from the Enumclaw fire chief were spot on – there is a lot of negative information being passed around. Citizens For Smart Taxes has a pending records request to determine who wrote the slanderous information which is being passed around by some of the firefighters. As of today, our records request has been denied.
I would also like to comment on the newspaper ad in last week’s Courier-Herald paid for by the fire department. The ad outlined concerns of misinformation regarding firefighters' salary. As a little background, the original story at issue was written by a Seattle-based law firm which represents fire and police agencies for benefits, Cline and Associates. In April of 2013 the firm wrote an article stating that Enumclaw firefighters are the sixth highest paid in the state behind Seattle and that Enumclaw ranks second in state on a five-year scale. The Enumclaw fire district went to great lengths to have this information retracted by the law firm. Unfortunately, the retraction letter was issued after the deadline for submission to the voter’s pamphlet resulting in partially inaccurate information represented in the voter’s pamphlet. Had the retraction been issued earlier there would be no confusion.
It should be clarified that Cline and Associates confirmed in writing that only base pay was used in their study. Benefits were not included in the study and benefits are a significant part of firefighters' overall compensation. The two-page fire district ad provided salary figures for the Enumclaw Fire District, which represents an average of $140,000 per employee.
I encourage all voters to learn the whole story before casting your ballot. Learn more on Facebook at “Enumclaw Citizens For Smart Taxes.” Vote smart and vote no on Fire Proposition 1. Demand respect and accountability to the taxpayers for whom the firefighters serve.