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Voters to decide on Lynnwood Fire Department merger with Fire District 1

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Residents will vote on consolidation of Lynnwood Fire Department and Snohomish County Fire District 1 in August 2017. The Lynnwood City Council and the Snohomish County Fire District 1 Board of Commissioners have approved a joint resolution proposing a Regional Fire Authority.

From a joint City of Lynnwood and Snohomish County Fire District 1 news release.

Residents will vote on consolidation of Lynnwood Fire Department and Snohomish County Fire District 1 in August 2017.

The Lynnwood City Council and the Snohomish County Fire District 1 Board of Commissioners have approved a joint resolution proposing a Regional Fire Authority (RFA) to voters in the primary election on August 1st.

An RFA is a special purpose district established by voters in a service area to provide funding for fire and emergency medical services. State law provides the framework for cities and fire districts to consider forming an RFA as a way to gain service efficiencies through consolidation while retaining local control.

The proposed RFA encompasses the City of Lynnwood and Fire District 1 in unincorporated south Snohomish County. If approved, the plan would consolidate the Lynnwood Fire Department and Fire District 1 into a single regional fire agency allowing for standardization of procedures, training and administration, and coordination of resources.

The RFA proposal is in response to population growth and calls for service growing faster than firefighting staff levels and funding. RFAs have been created successfully throughout the state to meet similar challenges, including regionally in Kent, South King County, North Snohomish County, Auburn (Valley RFA), and Renton.

If approved, the RFA will be funded by a property tax levy of $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value beginning in 2018. The current Emergency Medical Service (EMS) levies collected from both the Fire District and the City will be transferred to the RFA.

Fire District residents will see no difference in cost as the new RFA levy will replace the $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value that they currently pay.

For City of Lynnwood residents, the RFA will change the way they pay for fire service.

Currently, the City funds its fire department out of the general fund, which is supported by property taxes as well as other revenues such as sales tax. If the RFA is formed, City residents will pay $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value directly to the RFA and the City’s levy capacity would be reduced by up to $1.50 to offset the RFA levy.

The City is in the process of evaluating its property tax needs considering the cost savings it will realize by not having to fund the Lynnwood Fire Department through the City’s general fund.

Leadership of the RFA will include a board of seven. The transition board will consist of five Fire District 1 commissioners and two Lynnwood City Council appointees. The permanent board will be elected by voters in either 2019 or 2021.

If approved by a majority of voters within the proposed service area, the RFA would be implemented on October 1, 2017.

Lynnwood and Fire District 1 leadership and staff proposed the RFA after seven months of review, analysis, outreach and planning.

An RFA planning committee of three elected officials from each jurisdiction was established in October 2016 to guide the process. A website and information materials was created, four outreach meetings conducted and the proposed RFA was discussed at City Council and Fire District 1 board meetings.

Additional robust public education will be conducted until the August election date. Presentations are available to community groups.

For more information, please go to www.LynnwoodFD1RFA.com.

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Comments

Regional Fire Service Authority (RFA)

Unless and until Lynnwood has actually votes to reduce property taxes by $1.50 per $1000 of valuation then RFA is nothing but a money grab and the voters will paying twice for fire service. Voters should also be aware that the RFA sets up a separate taxing authority. Bottom line is the voters can expect an ever increasing demand for taxes to fund the fire service. To quote a FD 1 fire commissioner during the first RFA planning committee, "We operate this (FD-1) for the benefit of the firefighters."

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