City Council urges support for fire benefit charge measure

As it must do every six years, the Valley Regional Fire Authority’s (VRFA) Board of Governance has called for an election to re-authorize its use of the Fire Benefit Charge to fund the operations of the regional fire authority, which serves the cities of Algona, Auburn and Pacific.

At its regular meeting on Tuesday, the Auburn City Council expressed support for voter approval of Proposition No. 1, which would continue a voter-authorized benefit charge each year for six more years.

The measure is headed to the Feb. 13 special election ballot.

“This funding model has been critical to establishing stable funding, which has improved response times and service levels for fire protection, emergency medical aid calls, training of personnel and the purchase of necessary equipment,” said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, chair of the VRFA board. “The improvements and investments have garnered the VRFA a better fire protection grade, which equates to lower fire insurance rates for many of our residents and businesses.”

In 2006, voters from the three cities approved the FBC by a super majority of nearly 70 percent, and renewed its use in 2012 with 76 percent approval. Ever since 2008, the FBC has supported about 44 to 48 percent of the VRFA operating budget. State law requires approval to continue the use of the FBC funding model while it prohibits imposing an additional property tax of 50 cents per thousand dollars of assessed property value for fire protection services otherwise allowed by law.

“The FBC is based on the type of occupancy – residential or commercial – and square footage, which is an assessment of the cost of providing fire protection services to a particular building,” explained Eric Robertson, VRFA administrator. “We have maintained the FBC well below 60 percent of the operating budget cap while fully funding the fire, rescue and emergency medical services to the community.”

Each year, the board of governance reviews the FBC to ensure fiscal responsibility of the funding for the coming year. The law allows discounts for senior citizens and for buildings with approved fire sprinkler systems. Property owners may appeal their assessments.

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