The Wenatchee Valley Fire Department is holding a public meeting on Wednesday to discuss a proposed change to the fire tax paid by homeowners and businesses. 

The fire levy across the board would be reduced from $1.50 to $1.00 per $1,000 of assessed property value, but a “fire benefit charge” would be added. 

Fire Chief Brian Brett says they've compiled a draft database of the charge, which is based on the square footage of each structure and the time it would take to fight a fire in that building. 

"It's a fairer way of charging for burnable property instead of blindly charging on assessed valuation alone," said Brett.  

The change would lower the fire tax paid by residential homeowners and increase the tax on large commercial buildings, according to Brett. 

He says bigger commercial structures require far more resources and deserve to pay a bigger tax. 

“If you come to my house and it’s on fire, you’re going to be at my house a lot less time than if we go to a fire on the third floor of the Hilton Garden Inn,” Brett said. “That is going to consume a lot of resources over an extended period of time.” 

The draft database for fire benefit charges shows the Hilton Garden Inn would pay $2,500 more a year in fire taxes than the hotel property presently does. 

According to Brett, the owner of a typical 2,000-square-footquare-foot home would end up paying about $50 less per year. 

Also, after the $1.00 assessed property value tax, two houses of equal size would pay the same "fire benefit charge." 

The Board of Fire Commissioners would set the amount of the fire benefit charge each year based on a property’s size, use, and cost to serve in a fire. 

Fire districts in Washington state can only raise taxes by one percent every year. Brett said the one percent translates to $200,000 for the Wenatchee Valley Fire Department. He said that amount was absorbed by the cost of a fire engine rising by $100,000 year-over-year, the cost of insuring the fleet rising by $48,000, and the cost of health insurance going up by $54,000. 

A fire benefit charge must be approved by voters. The fire department is considering asking voters for a fire benefit charge in the August 6, 2024, primary election. 

Voters in over 20 fire districts in the state have approved a fire benefit charge to fund emergency services.  

Brett will give a presentation on the proposed fire benefit charge at the Wednesday Board of Fire Commissioners meeting. 

The community is encouraged to attend the meeting on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Fire Station 1, 377 Eastmont Ave., East Wenatchee, to learn more about how a fire benefit charge works. 

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