Four firefighters face potential layoffs at Fire District 1

Four firefighters at Snohomish County Fire District 1 have been given notices that they could be laid off as early as Feb. 15.

“We hope to come up with a solution before that date to allow these firefighters to stay on the job. They are valued employees who have served our citizens well,” said Fire Chief Ed Widdis. “Unfortunately, there aren’t any easy answers when we are facing a drop in property tax revenue of more than 12 percent this year with more of the same expected in 2013.”

Fire District 1 employs 190 firefighters and staffs 12 fire stations around the clock to serve more than 225,000 residents in unincorporated south Snohomish County, Brier, Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Woodway.

Property taxes are the primary source of funding for district operations. As home values have declined at an unprecedented rate over the past two years, so have property tax revenues in Fire District 1.

The district has already implemented major cutbacks. Nine administrative positions were eliminated in November through a combination of retirements and layoffs. An across-the-board reduction of nearly 12 percent in general fund program expenditures was also part of the $35.8 million budget for 2012 adopted by the Board of Commissioners in December.

Up until now, Fire District 1 had been able to avoid cutbacks in firefighting staff. In addition to the four layoffs under consideration, three vacant firefighter positions are slated to be eliminated.

Widdis said between now and Feb. 15 he will continue to explore other ways to reduce costs without having to implement the layoffs.

“Our top priority is to maintain the fire and emergency medical response the public has come to expect,” Widdis said. “We’re hoping we can find a way to keep these four firefighters on the job and serving our citizens.”

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