Maybe you've voted already on whether to continue funding the Woodinville Fire and Rescue at current levels for the next six years.
If you haven't, voters in the Woodinville Fire District area have until Tuesday, April 23 to get ballots in the mail or drop them off at the King County Elections ballot drop box at 919 SW Grady Way in Renton.
Woodinville Fire and Rescue mailed a newsletter recently to those in zip codes 98072 and 98077 explaining the voting issue and the specific method of funding used by the fire district known as the "benefit charge."
From the Woodinville Fire and Rescue newsletter:
Since 1990, Woodinville Fire has utilized a Fire Benefit Charge as a stable means to collect revenue. This April the Fire District is seeking to continue the benefit charge at its current level of funding.
The benefit charge is based on the square footage of buildings and structures on your property. This is in contrast to taxes that are based on assessed value. The Fire District currently receives 40% of its revenue through the benefit charge.
There are many reasons why the District utilizes a benefit charge rather than simply collecting all revenues through a tax levy. The Fire District is considered a junior taxing district. This means that the Fire District receives its money after all senior taxing districts (state, county, city, roads, ports, and public utility districts) receive theirs. A worst case scenario would be for senior taxing districts to collect the maximum allowed by law and therefore cut into what the Fire District can collect.
By having a benefit charge to collect a portion of the revenue, the funding source for vital services such as fire protection and emergency medical responses are protected from cuts. Another advantage to the benefit charge is the ability to provide discounts to the elderly, low income persons, and people who have installed fire sprinkler systems in their homes.
Although the Fire District levy and benefit charge can be confusing, our desire at Woodinville Fire is to give everyone the opportunity to understand how revenue is generated. The Board of Fire Commissioners, staff, and firefighters at Woodinville Fire are committed to being financially responsible with your tax and benefit charge dollars.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Is this a new tax or an increase of an existing one?
A: No, the benefit charge is not considered a tax. The benefit charge has been in place since 1990. Every six years voters need to renew the benefit charge. This vote simply extends the current funding for another six years.
Q: What does it mean by being based on “Improvements”?
A: “Improvements” is a term that refers to anything added to the land portion of your home. “Improvements” include any type of building built upon the land. Generally this refers to houses, garages (attached and detached), carports, outbuildings such as barns and sheds.
Q: What happens if the Benefit Charge is not renewed?
A: Since the benefit charge accounts for 40% of the Fire District’s operating budget, failure of the measure would result in significant loss of revenue. As a result, services would need to be cut. The issue would then be reintroduced in 2014 as a reinstatement of the benefit charge or a levy lid lift to increase taxes. However, if these issues are vvoted on in 2014, they would not take effect until 2015.
Q: Where can I get more information?
A: There is additional information on the Fire District’s website at www.wf-r.org. You can also contact the District’s headquarters at 425-483-2131 for answers to additional questions.
Have you voted yet or do you know how you will vote? Tell us in comments.