South County Fire to host virtual meetings this month for proposed benefit charge appearing on Nov. 3 ballot

South County Fire will host two virtual meetings this month to answer questions about a possible benefit charge the fire authority is asking voters to consider approving for emergency services on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

Meetings will be held via Zoom teleconferencing on Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. and Oct. 22 at 7 a.m. Fire Chief Thad Hovis will provide a brief presentation and then take questions. Participants can access the meeting by telephone or internet. Instructions, call-in numbers and links are posted on the South County Fire website.

A benefit charge is based on a property’s size and use. Smaller structures are charged less than larger buildings because it takes fewer resources to serve them in an emergency. Voters in more than a dozen Washington communities — including Shoreline, Woodinville, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park and Renton — have approved a benefit charge because they believe it is a fairer way to fund emergency services.

South County Fire recently posted a video to its Youtube account explaining the benefit charge, which can be viewed here.

In 2020, the fire levy for South County Fire is $1.28 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Under a benefit charge, the fire levy would decrease to $1 per $1,000. If approved by voters, South County Fire Commissioners intend to set the benefit charge at a rate that will reduce revenue by $1.3 million next year. This is possible because of increased revenue the fire authority is receiving to provide service to Medicaid patients.

The net result is that almost 96% of homeowners are expected to pay less or the same with a benefit charge in 2021 compared to the traditional fire levy funding model. Property owners can see what they would pay with a benefit charge using a comparison tool on the fire authority’s website.

The benefit charge is set annually in a public hearing and property owners can appeal their assessment. It would expire in six years unless renewed by voters. Seniors, disabled persons and low-income households maintain any current exemptions they have through the county. There is also a discount for fire alarms, sprinkler systems and undeveloped land.

This election will not apply to voters within the city limits of Brier, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace. Residents of these cities receive emergency services through a contract their city has signed with South County Fire. However, voters in Lynnwood and unincorporated areas will vote on the measure.

More information about the benefit charge can be found on the fire authority’s website. Public Information Officer Leslie Hynes is also available to answer questions at 425-551-1243 or lhynes@southsnofire.org.

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