Last year the Fire Benefit Charge didn’t pass; it failed by just 2% of the super majority needed to pass; just a couple hundred of ‘yes’ votes. As a supporter of the FBC last year and author of a pro-editorial and mailer along with doing an evening of sign waving, I wish I had done more personally to persuade voters to 1) open and vote on the single-issue ballot and 2) Vote YES. After hearing the debate on the merits of different funding options last year, and with the citizen advisory committee’s recommendation of the fire benefit charge option, and the board of fire commissioners vote to approve, I believe the FBC is the best solution to safeguard a consistent and predictable level of funding for fire and life safety in our greater community.
In the current system of funding, the fire department’s budgets fall victim to the rise and fall of home values and to other junior taxing districts that share the percentage of tax dollars available. How in the world can our fire district budget and plan for the ever-increasing needs of this growing community if the funding is in a constant state of flux? The FBC stabilizes 60% of the department’s funding source by basing it on the actual risk factors to defend your home (or business) such as square footage, type of construction and whether fire sprinklers are installed; it’s not based on the market value. The FBC is a true reflection of the cost of defending your home, not its resale value.
The FBC also allows the department to budget for both capital and operational needs. The current system requires voter approved bonds and levies every couple of years, which is a costly process. The FBC requires voter reauthorization every 6 years; a much more cost effective and consistent means of voter approval. The FBC gives the department the flexibility to determine how to best allocate dollars for operations, personnel, and facilities – allowing to plan and expand services to benefit all parts of the district.
Ballots will be in the mail on July 12th; Election Day is Tuesday, August 1. Summer is a very busy time for everyone and it is so easy to set the ballot aside and forget it so as soon as that ballot arrives in your mail box open it up, VOTE YES on Maple Valley Fire & Life Safety Proposition 1 and return your ballot ASAP.