King County Fire District 27 is located in Fall City, Washington nestled in the Cascade foothills twenty four miles east of Seattle. The Fire District serves a population of approximately 6,340 people in and surrounding the unincorporated rural town of Fall City. The Fire District service area is 22 square miles.
Citing concerns regarding financial sustainability and service delivery, Fire District 27 commissioners are exploring possible futures for the Fall City Fire Department. The option selected to put on a ballot for community approval/disapproval could have significant impact on the fire staff, local businesses, and residents in Fire District 27, so it is important that community members become familiar with the ramifications of each option for themselves and the community and to seek answers from and make their preferences known to the commissioners early in the process.
More information regarding options, pros and cons, etc. is available in this newsletter article (download PDF).
The Future of the Fall City Fire Department
Stand-alone Fire District
Fall City Fire District will soon be debt free. In 2020, final payment will be made on outstanding equipment purchases and in 2021, the building GO Bond will be paid off. Currently the District has $921,120 in cash/operating reserve and $225,000 in apparatus reserve ear marketed for planned replacement of the aid car. Future long term budget projections for a continued stand-along fire district will be provided soon.
Fall City Fire District relies solely on assessed property value that is applied equally to all parcels within the District. Currently the district is funded through a levy of $1.27 per $1000 of assessed value and to make up its short fall a special four-year voter approved maintenance and operations bond levy of $0.39 per $1000. The maintenance and operations levy stays the same throughout its four-year period and will expire at the end of 2020. If the District stays a stand-along there would most likely need to be ongoing voter approved four-year maintenance and operations bond levies or a levy lift up to $1.50 per $1000 of assessed value. Approval of a four-year maintenance and operations bond levy or a levy lift requires a 60% majority vote. In the past, levies have passed with a large majority, as the citizens in the District have always supported its Fall City Fire District. Also as an option to make up its short fall, Fall City Fire District could put a fire benefit charge taxing model on the ballot.
Fall City Fire District has a working relationship with the City of Duvall and Snoqualmie Fire Departments to share sources and staffing.
To increase the percentage of the 3 Career Firefighter response to calls, the Commissioners of Fall City Fire District instructed district staff to proceed with the process of hiring one additional Career Firefighter. Three Fall City Volunteer Firefighters plan to apply for the position.
Merger with Fire District 10
The petition to merge was filed with the board of District 10 by the Commissioners of the Fall City Fire District, by a vote of two to one. The petition stated the reason for the merger is both districts are within reasonable proximity to each other, have a history of working together and a merger of the Districts will decrease costs and increase efficiency in serving the area within both districts. The board of District 10, by resolution, approved the petition and transmitted the petition, together with a copy of its resolution to Fall City Fire District. The Commissioners of Fall City Fire District took action to submit District 10 merger for review the to the State Boundary Review Board by a vote of two to none/absent. The District's filing with the State Boundary Review Board was approved.
The Commissioners of the Fall City Fire District have the option to rescind the merger petition. If not rescinded, the next step, as per RCW 52.06 MERGER is as follows: Fall City Fire District board shall adopt a resolution requesting the county auditor to call a special election in Fall City Fire District for the purpose of presenting the question of a District 10 merger to the electors. A resolution calling for an election would need to be filed on or before December 14, 2018 for the February 12, 2019 special election. For the April 23, 2019 election the resolution would need to be filed on or before February 22, 2019.
If the majority of the votes cast at the election favor the merger with District 10, the Commissioners of Fall City Fire District shall adopt concurrent resolutions, declaring the districts merged. Thereupon the districts are merged into one district, under the name of District 10. Fall City Fire District is dissolved, and the boundaries of District 10 are thereby extended to include all the area of Fall City Fire District. The Commissioners of Fall City Fire District shall, upon completion of the merger with District 10, transfer, convey, and deliver to District 10 all property and funds of Fall City Fire District. Both Fall City and Eastside Fire & Rescue names would be used on the fire station and apparatus. Eastside Fire & Rescue stated there is no reason to move the current apparatus but back up/reserve vehicles may not be needed.
District 10 uses a two-part taxation method. Part one is base level tax levy of $1.00 per thousand of assessed value. Part two is a fire benefit charge used to make up its short fall. Fire benefit charge amount is applied on property improvements according to property use and size of structure. This amount can be set at up to 60% of the districts operating budget. District 10 Commissioners have the right to change the fire benefit charge amount every year without voter approval. District 10 modeling analysis shows 76% of Fall City taxpayers would see a slight tax reduction. However, 23% would see a tax increase which primarily falls on lower assessed value homes and commercial properties. Keep in mind the above tax analysis is based on 2018 fire benefit charge and there is no guarantee how much you will pay in taxes from year to year with the allowed annual fire benefit charge rate changes. The continuation of a Fire benefit charge requires a 50% majority re-authorization voter approval every 6 years.
If to merge, all Fall City staff and firefighters become employees of District 10.
Cooperative Partnership with City of Snoqualmie Fire Department
Future long term budget projections for a Cooperative Partnership with the City of Snoqualmie Fire Department will be provided soon.