Media Releases

2024 Fire Levy Information

What we do

 

We provide fire and life safety services to approximately 40,000 people over 330 square miles in north Spokane County, including the city of Deer Park. We respond to an average of 4,200 calls each year.

 

Our emergency personnel are highly trained to provide the following services:

  • Structural fire suppression
  • Wildland firefighting
  • EMS
  • Ambulance transport
  • Motor vehicle extrication
  • Response to hazardous material spills
  • Life safety programs
  • Fully qualified fire prevention bureau, which consists of a fire marshal, assistant fire marshal and fire prevention specialist. The bureau provides commercial life safety inspections, construction plan review, public education, wildfire home ignition zone assessments, and fire investigations.

 

We operate under a balanced budget and have passed all financial and accountability audits by the state.

 

How we fund emergency services

 

We are funded through two property tax levies. The fire levy is capped at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The EMS levy is capped at $0.50 per $1,000. The fire levy accounts for 70 percent of our revenue and supplements our EMS program, which accounts for 72 percent of all calls. The EMS levy accounts for the remaining 30 percent of our revenue.

 

In 2021, voters approved a fire levy rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Since then, it has dropped to $1.14.

 

Why did the levy rate drop?

 

Each year we are allowed to collect a set amount of revenue. State law limits us to that amount plus one percent more per year. Even if property values increase by 20 percent, we can only increase our revenue by 1 percent. This means that the levy rate falls as property values rise to limit our budget to the same amount of revenue per year plus that one percent increase.

 

New homes and businesses improve our local economy, but the increased property values further drive down the levy rate. This creates more demand for services and increased costs to provide those services.

 

This is called “levy erosion” and impacts our ability to provide emergency services.

For example, it costs $1.50 to provide emergency fire services. Our fire levy has dropped to $1.14. This means we are providing emergency services to existing and new properties at $1.14 instead of the $1.50 that is needed.

 

What is a levy lid lift?

 

From time to time, we must ask voters to reset our fire levy rate. This is known as a “levy lid lift,” and it helps us keep up with higher call volumes and costs to provide service.

 

Our call volumes have increased 24 percent in the last three years (2020-2023) due to population and residential and commercial growth. More calls mean additional costs, and those costs are higher due to inflation. Costs to deliver emergency services increase by an average of 7.5 percent per year. However, the fire district is still limited to the annual 1 percent revenue increase, which is not keeping up with the emergency service needs of our community.

 

Levy lid lift will reduce response times and improve service.

 

We are considering asking voters for a $0.36 lid lift during the August 2024 primary election to return the fire levy to the previously approved amount of $1.50 per $1,000. Revenue from the lid lift would fund:

 

  • Additional fire/EMS personnel to respond to calls.
  • Adding a fire engine/ladder used for structural fire suppression.
  • The replacement of three “urban interface engines” used for both structural and wildfire suppression that can travel through remote areas of the district where travel and road conditions are much harsher.
  • The remodel of Station 47 (Green Bluff) to accommodate additional personnel and seasonal firefighters during wildland fire season to reduce response times.

 

The lid lift would maintain or reduce our risk rating for homeowner insurance premiums. It would also fund our needed projects without voter-approved debt such as a bond, which costs taxpayers more in interest payments.

 

What will this cost me? *

 

The owner of a home with an assessed value of $400,000 (considered average for our area) would pay an additional $12 per month or $144 per year.

 

Fire Chief Bill Neckels welcomes your questions at billn@scfd4.org or 509-467-4500.

 

 

*Homeowners who are 61 years or older and others who meet income and eligibility requirements may qualify for a property tax exemption. Contact the Spokane County Assessor at 509-477-3698 or online at https://www.spokanecounty.org/281/SeniorDisabled-Person-Tax-Exemption to see if you qualify.