Since it doesn’t look a fire is going to be lit under sagging real-estate sales or flat-lining property values anytime soon, at least one local agency that depends on tax revenue from such activity is looking for additional revenue.
Last month, Spokane County Fire District 8 commissioners reluctantly agreed to seek their first maintenance and operations levy from its jurisdiction’s voters. If passed on Nov. 8, the fire department – which serves 110 square miles south of Spokane Valley, including a portion of the Ponderosa neighborhood – would collect $400,000 for two years.
That would cost property owners an estimated 17 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation. The levy needs a 60-percent supermajority for passage.
District 8 Chief Bill Walkup said his department has had success “in the 60-percent range) of passing levy lid lifts in the past, but this will mark the first attempt at a levy aimed at maintenance and operations.
The money collected is aimed at keeping the current level of service for the department, which is served by a mixture of paid staff and volunteers. It doesn’t, however, attempt to completely close the gap between the $5.2 million previously received in property tax revenue to the current $4.6 million level.
Walkup does, however, says he understands voters’ concerns along with those of fire commissioners who expressed their own reservations, wondering if further cuts or deferring the replacement of equipment could occur before going to taxpayers.
“It’s a good chance to have that dialogue,” Walkup said, adding that – should the ballot question fail – it will be up to the commissioners to decide where cuts will be made in the 2012 budget and beyond.
“That’s a policy decision for the board,” he said. “If there are priorities for service, they’ll have to tell me what they are.”
Walkup is optimistic about the prospects of the levy’s passage, though, as “we’ve enjoyed really good support from our community.”
“We’re open and transparent,” he said. “We just have to educate our citizens and allow them to tell us what to do.”