Every six years state law requires Valley Regional Fire Authority (VRFA) to come to the voters to reauthorize the Fire Benefit Charge (FBC). This is not a new fee, but one we have used for 10 years, and it avoids having to do an additional tax assessment. It is a fairer way to pay for fire-related services because it recognizes the square footage and use of a building as well as what it would take to put out a fire in a building instead of using the simple value of a home or business.
The FBC has provided between 44 to 48 percent of the operating budget for the VRFA. This is a significant part of the funding of the day-to-day fire, rescue and emergency medical services that the people of Algona, Auburn and Pacific count on.
There are strong safeguards in place. too. With our citizens reauthorizing the use of this funding model, there is greater accountability. Additionally, an annual vote by our elected officials is required to authorize the revenue and budgets for the department. The fire department’s elected representatives (the three mayors and six council members on the VRFA board) have responsibly held the budget well below that “cap” of 60 percent that state law allows the FBC to assess for their operating budget. All this is done while ensuring that our fire department is well equipped and prepared to answer the needs of our communities.
It is important to note that our senior citizens and commercial buildings with sprinkler systems in place receive discounts.
The fire department has been financially responsible, all while continuing to make significant improvements to their operations and ability to serve us. Every five years, the fire department is graded by an independent group, the Washington Surveying & Rating Bureau, which reviews the training of employees, equipment, stations locations, water supply and prevention measures of the department. Our VRFA has consistently improved their rating over the last two grading periods which has reduced fire insurance premiums for many of our residents and business owners!
Our firefighters have worked hard to be responsible with the funds to provide state-of-the art fire, rescue and emergency medical services to our community in our time of need, which we recently experienced with the devastating Heritage Fire. While a building was destroyed, not a single person was lost.
It is vital that we provide them with the continued funding which allows them to continue to do so. Vote yes on Proposition 1, and don’t forget to return your ballot before Tuesday, Feb. 13.
– Donna Helser Foxley, Auburn; Troy Linnell, Algona; Clint Steiger, Pacific