BUDGET & FUNDING
In 2019, Fire District 11 (Littlerock) will levy a regular property tax at a rate of $1.42/1000 AV. That means a homeowner will pay $142.00 dollars per year for each $100,000 dollars in property value or approximately $11.83 dollars per month per 100 thousand value. In 2019, Fire District 1 (Grand Mound/Rochester) will levy a regular property tax at a rate of $1.47/1000 AV. That means a homeowner will pay $147.00 dollars per year for each $100,000 dollars in property value or approximately $12.25 dollars per month per 100 thousand value.
MAINTENANCE & OPERATIONS LEVY (M&O) :
In 2019, West Thurston Regional Fire Authority (the RFA) recovered from a 30% reduction, resulting from the Great Recession. For ten (10) years, the RFA collected less regular levy revenue than it did in 2009. During the same period, the cost of goods and services rose sharply and emergency call volume increased by 17% (2009-2019).
The Fire Districts are funded solely by the residents and business owners who are located with the emergency response zone, and receive NO Federal, State or county funding. The only exception is a minor percentage of revenue resulting from State and Federal grant funding. Additionally, Thurston County Medic One collects All EMS levy dollars allowed by law and allocates an insignificant amount annually to Fire Districts and RFA’s.
As a result of the declining revenue and increased call volume, in 2015 Community Representatives (Citizens’ Advisory Committee) advised the RFA to implement the Maintenance & Operations (M&O) funding as a means to prevent firefighter layoffs and to maintain service delivery. In fact, the Advisory Committee recommended the RFA “Seek adequate revenue to staff all the staff-able fire stations (more boots on the ground)” and maintain or improve service delivery and response times. In 2016 voters in each Fire District approved a three (3) year Maintenance & Operations Levy (M&O). By the end of 2017 the RFA Districts 1 & 11 improved emergency service delivery by staffing 4-5 fire stations and improving emergency response times.
Under the combined, Regular and M&O Levy funding arrangement recommended by the citizens' group in 2015 and approved by the voters; the largest geographical (County) and mostly rural fire department has developed the benefits of emergency service delivery similar to residents who live in the cities. West Thurston Districts are now rated amongst the best of any non-city Fire Department in the region, with a Public Protection Classification (PPC) of Four (4), which is equal to the bordering City of Tumwater. The improved PPC rating means that property owners save money on fire insurance premiums. However, the real value to the improvements is adequate numbers of well trained and equipped firefighter/emergency medical personnel arriving timely to the emergency.
In 2019 the M&O Levy will cost a homeowner approximately $56.00 per one-hundred thousand dollars of home value.
The General Fund and M&O revenue is utilized to fund the delivery of Emergency Medical, Rescue, and Wild land and Structural Fire Suppression Services. The revenue also funds investigation, prevention, and public education services. The RFA utilizes these funds to pay firefighter and EMT wages and benefits, uniforms, personal protective equipment, facility and apparatus maintenance, fuel and energy costs and all other supplies or goods and services. Some of the revenue is also used to replace fire engines, aid units, and incident command apparatus and equipment.
Voters authorized the development and purchase of new fire stations, fire engines, water tenders and other major expenses (capital projects) by authorizing the Fire Department(s) to issue bonds over a period of years, much like when someone finances and purchases a new home or automobile. Taxpayers are assessed a tax for these purchases. The Fire District 1 Bond rate last year was 0.48 cents per thousand AV. The District 1 Bond term was 15 years and will end in 2020. The Fire District 11 Bond rate was 0.26 cents per thousand AV in 2019. The term of the District 11 Bond was 20 years and will end in 2025. These rates may fluctuate slightly up or down each year based on property values. Bond funds can only be used for what they were intended i.e. fire station construction-remodel, purchase of firefighting and other equipment necessary to deliver emergency services. The bond funds were used to build three (3) new fire stations including Sargent Road, Maytown Rd., Scott Lake (Trevue Ave.) and remodel two (2) fire stations including the Albany St. and Littlerock Rd. Stations, The bond funds were also used to purchase two new fire engines, a water tender, wild land fire engines and numerous firefighting and rescue tools and equipment.
LEVY & BOND RATES:
The levy and bond rates between district vary because property values throughout the region are assessed different values and at different times. Both districts are held to a lawful limit and a 1% budget increase per year, all of which causes the rate to fluctuate. In general as property values increase the lawful limit and 1% increase will cause the rate to drop. For example the regular levy rate is held to a maximum limit of 1.50, however over the years the fire department rate of collection dropped to 1.47 and 1.42 respectively.