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South Kitsap Fire & Rescue levy Q&A

After our Jan. 24 story on the South Kitsap Fire & Rescue levy proposal that will be on the April 17 ballot, readers had questions and raised issues that called for more information.

I contacted SKFR Chief Wayne Senter via email for a Q&A. In the interest of space, I have paraphrased portions of Senter’s replies.

The ballot measure calls for a temporary (six-year) levy lid lift or special levy that would replace the current special levy, expiring at the end of 2012.

KS: Let’s cut to the chase. How many employees would be laid off if the levy fails and how many of those would be firefighters?

WS: “Although no final decision has been made, the department anticipates a reduction in force of 20 full-time employees, including 18 firefighter-EMTS and 2 support staff. This would likely force the department to convert 3 of its 8 fully staffed stations to volunteer stations, meaning response times “will increase from 10 to 15 minutes depending on the exact circumstance. This increase would likely be deemed as a gross deviation from credible emergency response times and would result in de-accreditation (national fire safety standards) for SKFR. Longer response times mean more community risk.”

KS: You call this a “replacement levy.” How much do you anticipate collecting in 2013 if the levy passes?

WS: The same amount as in 2012. plus a 1 percent annual increase allowed by state law.

In 2012 SKFR’s combined fire and Emergency Medical Services property tax assessments will generate an estimated $12 million. The temporary fire levy lid lift that expires at the end of this year represents about $1.7 of that amount this year.

“It is that exact amount of money we seek to renew for 2013.” By that, he means $12 million is the base amount from which the 1 percent increase would be calculated. Separately factored into tax collection calculations is an amount attributed to new construction.

KS: What does that mean to property owners?

WS: This year (2012), the special levy accounts for about 27 cents of the district’s total fire levy collection rate, which is $1.38 per $1,000 of assessed property value. So the levy lid lift/temporary levy in 2012 costs the owner of a $250,000 home $67.50 per year. That’s the part fire officials are seeking to replace.

Besides the permanent fire levy and the temporary fire levy lid lift, 50 cents per $1,000 is collected for the Emergency Medical Services levy. Voters approved the six-year EMS increase in 2009.

So SKFR’s total rate in 2012 is $1.88 per $1,000 of assessed value.

KS: What would the rate be in 2013 if the levy passes?

The anticipated rate that will be on the fire levy lid lift ballot measure is $1.48 per $1,000 of assessed value. That’s the amount fire district officials conservatively estimate will be required to maintain the current level of funding.

Pinpointing the exact rate needed is not an exact science, however, because the rate for any given year is based in part on the total assessed value of property in the fire district, a variable that’s hard to predict. The fire district gets projections from the assessor that it uses in setting the rate.

“We plan to ask for a rate that will ensure we are able to continue the same level of funding from 2012 into 2013,” Senter said.

Suffice it to say that unless your home took a big jump up in value, due to an addition for example, the taxes you would pay in 2013 would be pretty much in line with what you’ve been paying.

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