Ever since the cities of Auburn, Algona and Pacific established the Valley Regional Fire Authority in 2007, the agency’s fees have not changed, and everyone who lives in the benefit area continues to pay taxes for services.
Now, however, the VRFA has started a conversation with its governance board – composed of the mayors of Auburn, Algona, and Pacific and two council members from each city – about bringing its fee schedule up to date.
Last week, VRFA Deputy Chief Kevin Hanson and Assistant Fire Marshall Larry Upton addressed the City Council, seeking a resolution to start a process that facilitates collection of relevant fees and fee types.
Here’s the issue.
In Auburn, the City collects fees and distributes those fees to the VRFA, a practice it put in place to ensure it could achieve a one-stop permitting shop. Instead of sending a customer with a multi-million-dollar project like Merrill Gardens to a VRFA office to pay fees and apply for separate fire permits, that customer can now get direct service by submitting, paying for, and picking up permits at the City’s Permit Center.
While the VRFA is organizationally independent from the City of Auburn, its fire marshal, Karen Stewart, continues to play a role in reviewing development proposals and conducting inspections during the construction process.
And while direct service customers pay a substantial portion of the direct service they are seeking, the service is not being subsidized across the taxing district.
To put it another way, a residential tax payer who pays a portion of his or her property taxes to VRFA is generally not providing a significant-level of monetary contribution to provide the service to a commercial real estate proposal or a new residential subdivision.
Which is what the VRFA hopes to adjust.
While the VRFA is a separate agency, with a separate governance board that has authority to establish its own service fees, the Auburn City Council has a role in endorsing fees the City collects and distributes to other agencies, similar to its role in reviewing school district fees and taking action to authorize the collection of these external agency fees.
It will be up to the City Council at a future meeting to authorize, or not, the adjustments.