Lake Wenatchee Fire and Rescue Asking Community to ‘Refresh’ Tax Levy
Lake Wenatchee Fire and Rescue will be asking voters in February to increase its regular property tax levy to reflect the rise in area property values.
Chief Mick Lamar said the all volunteer fire district would use the money to build funds for station improvements and equipment.
If the current levy is not altered, Lamar claimed the current budgetary levels would severely impact Chelan County Fire District #9's operations.
"Our trucks would be older, some of our (personal protective equipment) would be out of compliance, and then on top of that we have some differed maintenance on stations." Lamar explained, "Apparatus starts to get older and requires more and more maintenance dollars. We'd like to continue our level of service. We'd have to take a really deep dive to see what level of service and rigs we could keep in service if we could not get the voter support for this."
The current, ongoing levy was last adjusted by voters in 2004 and went into effect in 2005. At the time, 82 cents per $1,000 of assessed value was collected, totaling $310,687.
However, the district does not simply collect 82 cents per $1,000 of assessed value every year going forward. Instead, the district is only allowed to collect that same amount every year going forward, plus a one percent increase from the previous year's total.
So, as property values rise for homeowners, the rate they pay per $1,000 of assessed value decreases.
The Chelan County Assessor's Office currently estimates that rate will be 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value this year, totaling $542,657.
Lake Wenatche Fire and Rescue is looking to bring the levy back up to 82 cents starting in 2021, which would be at least a 70% increase in the total amount collected from the community. The Assessor's Office estimates that rate would total to $923,732 with today's values, although that number will almost certainly rise by 2021.
"Voters are voters and I understand tax dollars and money. We've been very fiscally conservative but we felt this was a need that we need to put before the voters and ask for their support." added Lamar, "It's up to the voters to decide if we spend their money wisely, we're good stewards, and provide a good service. We certainly think we have but it's up to the voters to decide how they want to vote and that's just where we've got to leave it."
The all-volunteer fire district uses a points-based incentive program to keep volunteers active despite volunteerism dropping nationwide. Lamar added that the increase in revenue would beef their incentive fund up in order to entice more membership.