2020 Proposition No. 1 – Frequently Asked Questions

What is Proposition No. 1?

If approved, this proposition would authorize restoration of the regular property levy rate of $1.00/$1,000 assessed value for collection in 2021. The increased levy would be used to sustain fire protection and emergency medical services within the Authority.

When will Proposition No. 1 be on the ballot?

VRFA plans to place Proposition No. 1 on the February 11, 2020 special election ballot.

Why is the VRFA proposing a levy lid lift?

Since VRFA was created in 2007, the population it serves has grown by approximately 30 percent. During that period, VRFA has accommodated the population and emergency response volume growth with the same number of operational staff, engines, equipment and stations. It is reaching the limits of its ability to continue doing so, and is proposing this measure to ensure that it can continue to meet the needs of the people it serves.

Why can’t VFRA simply adjust the Fire Benefit Charge?

The state limits the percentage of fire authority funding that can come from the Fire Benefit Charge (FBC). As time has gone by and property tax collections are limited to one percent annual growth, the balance between property taxes and the FBC has shifted, with the FBC growing as a percentage of total VRFA funding. Rebalancing these sources closer to the original ratio is needed before the state limit on the fire benefit charge is reached.

How does this impact the Fire Benefit Charge?

If Proposition No. 1 passes, the Fire Benefit Charge will be reduced in 2021.

If Proposition No. 1 passes, who will pay the tax and what will it cost the average homeowner?
Increasing the percentage of VRFA funding that comes from the property tax spreads the cost of fire protection and other services more broadly, because vacant land is taxed but is exempt from the fire benefit charge. Proposition No. 1 will have a very modest impact on local residents.  Owners of an average home in the area (2,000 sq. ft. and $350,000 value) will see their total cost for VRFA services increase less than $1 per month. Low-income seniors may still qualify for property tax exemptions.

What happens if Proposition No. 1 does not pass?

Proposition No. 1 is a proactive step to allow VFRA to continue making investments needed to help meet its performance targets in serving the people of the area. If Proposition No. 1 does not pass, the percentage of VRFA funding coming from the fire benefit charge will continue to increase. If that reaches the statutory maximum, VRFA’s options will become limited, its ability to make important investments curtailed, and it eventually will lead to reduced service levels.

What planning has gone into Proposition No. 1?

VRFA leadership continually assesses its performance against service level standards and identifies steps to move toward these goals. Proposition No. 1 was developed with these goals in mind and was presented for review and approval by the Governing Board, which consists of the mayors and two councilmembers from each of the cities served by VRFA.

What is the status of VRFA finances and service levels?

Throughout its 13-plus years of existence, VRFA has a strong track record as a steward of public funds. VRFA is audited annually by the Washington State Auditor and has had clean audits over its entire history. Additionally, the VRFA aggressively pursues state and federal funding sources to reduce the financial burden placed on local residents and has refinanced outstanding bonds to take advantage of lower interest rates, saving approximately $1 million over the term of the bonds.  As a result of this prudent financial management, VRFA has maintained consistently high service levels in the face of significant growth without ever before proposing an increase in local property taxes.

What services does the Valley Regional Fire Authority (VRFA) provide?

VRFA provides critical fire protection, emergency medical response and fire prevention services to more than 90,000 residents and businesses in a 37-square-mile area comprised of the cities of Algona, Auburn and Pacific.