Funding for the Valley Regional Fire Authority comes from a voter-approved fire benefit charge (FBC) and property taxes collected at a reduced rate.

Although the fire benefit charge is collected through the County with your regular property taxes, the FBC is not a tax. The benefit charge assesses properties based on square footage, building use types, and the delivery of crucial fire protection resources to structures in our service area.

As a result of collecting a benefit charge, the regular property tax collection rate for 2020 is reduced from $1.50/$1,000 to $0.76/$1,000 assessed property value for residents of our service area.

FIRE BENEFIT CHARGE FAQs

Estimate Your FBC


Based on an Insurance Services Organization (ISO) formula, the VRFA Governance Board has adopted the following fire benefit charge formula:

([ √ Total sq.ft.] * 18)(CF) * (CPG)(BF) * (1 – (Senior + Sprinkler Discount)) = FBC

The FBC factors in your property’s total square footage of improvements—or any structural square footage on property at risk for potential fire damage. Your property’s square footage data is obtained & maintained by your County Assessor’s Office (King County or Pierce County)

Improvement square footage includes:

  • All usable & livable space
  • Finished & unfinished basements
  • Attached & detached garages
  • Carports

It does not include:

  • Decks
  • Porches
  • Structures less than 400 sq. ft.

Category factors (CF) help categorize building use types and also assign a weighted value to structures based on their relative “fire benefit”⁠—a.k.a. the ⁠fire protection resources needed for that specific building type (i.e., large commercial buildings = increased fire benefit charge).

  • Single Family Home = 1.0
  • Mobile Home = 0.8

If you own a multi-family property with more than four units, please call us for assistance.

  • Commercial 1 < 4,000 sq. ft. = 1.0
  • Commercial 2 < 10,000 sq. ft. = 3.0
  • Commercial 3 < 30,000 sq. ft. = 4.5
  • Commercial 4 < 100,000 sq. ft. = 6.5
  • Commercial 5 < 200,000 sq. ft. = 8.0
  • Commercial 6 > 200,000 sq. ft. = 10.0

The benefit to each category of structure is proportional to the total square footage of improvements & cost per gallon.

The VRFA used a Construction Type factor of “1” due to the variety of construction types in the Fire Authority and the inability to accurately determine the construction type for every structure from existing County database information. Therefore, since Construction Type is equal to “1”, we have not displayed this factor within the FBC formula itself.

Fire Benefit Charge assessments are determined by the “required fire flow” factor which identifies that the basic unit of measuring public fire service is through the physical delivery of water to the fire.

“Required fire flow” increases with fire load and structural risk—determined by building construction type, use type (see “Category Factors”), and square footage of improvements.


CPG refers to the fire department’s cost per gallon of delivering necessary fire protection resources to residential and commercial structures.

  • The CPG for 2020 is set at $45.77

The final balancing factor is used as an adjustable multiplier to finely tune the FBC calculation to reach precisely the desired target FBC amount.

  • The balancing factor for 2020 is set at 0.009070561024

Senior Discount (% varies)

Senior discounts are administered by your County Assessor’s Office – you must contact them to determine your eligibility. If you are eligible for the senior discount on your property taxes, it will automatically be applied to your FBC. We use the same rules for the senior citizen discount as the County does on your property taxes. Because it is based on income, not all seniors qualify.

Commercial Sprinkler Discount (10%)

A commercial building with a full coverage sprinkler system will receive a ten percent (10%) FBC discount. Partial coverage systems are considered on a case-by-case basis but will normally be proportional to the total area of the building subject to the fire protection system.

Regarding Mobile Homes: The County does not adequately maintain square feet data for mobile homes. Since the FBC formula is based upon building square footage, the VRFA Governance Board determined the most practical means was to consider the average mobile home square footage 1500 sq. ft. and apply it to each mobile home that is identified by the county tax records as a permanent structure.

Calculator

The Impact


First approved by voters in 2006, and re-approved in 2012 and 2018, the FBC creates a stable source of revenue that continues to support the organization’s emergency response times and service levels for fire protection, medical aid calls, training of personnel, and the purchase of necessary equipment.

The FBC funding method provides property owners with a detailed cost-analysis of the crucial fire protection services required for their property’s fire protection needs. Homeowners will effectively pay a lower FBC rate because the cost of providing fire service to commercial properties (i.e. larger structures) is higher than it is for residential properties.

The improvements and investments have garnered the VRFA better fire protection grades, which equates to lower fire insurance rates for many of our residents and businesses. By statute, revenue collected from the FBC may not exceed 60% of the total operating budget and renewal of the FBC is required every 6 years.

YEAR TOTAL FBC AMOUNT % of VRFA Operating Budget
2020 $13,800,000 49.43%
View Our Annual Reports

Appeals & Hearings


If you feel that the fire benefit charge calculated for your parcel is in error, you may appeal. The VRFA is required per RCW 52.26.250 to conduct a review board hearing for at least two weeks after a notice of the charge has been mailed to property owners.

REVIEW YOUR SQUARE FOOTAGE

All structural square footage figures and property use data are supplied by the King and Pierce County Assessors Offices. If you are using the County data for comparison, this will include finished & unfinished basements, attached or detached garages & carports.

APPEALS TIMELINE

A formal hearing will take place at Fire Station 31 at 5:00 PM January 30, 2020. Persons requesting a hearing on their FBC need not be present for the hearing–provided all the appropriate forms and information are submitted to the VRFA. All appeals must be received by the VRFA no later than 5:00 PM January 27, 2020. For additional information of how to appeal or review your FBC, send an us an email at AskTheVRFA@vrfa.org

FBC Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Yes. The Fire Benefit Charge (FBC) was first approved by voters in 2006, and renewed in 2012 and 2018. The FBC must be renewed by the voters every six years.

While the VRFA does have a property tax levy, the amount that can be levied is reduced under State law because of the FBC. Without an FBC, the maximum levy could apply is $1.50 / $1,000 of assessed property valuation. With the FBC, the 2020 levy rate will be $0.76 per / $1,000 of assessed property valuation.

The FBC is set at a level every year to ensure that all residents of the Authority continue to receive fire and EMS services. Because the FBC is applied to every square foot of property within the entire VRFA service area, the FBC will change from year-to-year.

All structural square footage, which is comprised of all usable and livable space of your house (this includes the square footage of basements, and both attached and detached garages).

No. The FBC is a fair way of paying for fire services, because it is charged based on the cost of providing fire service to each structure within our service area. The result is that homeowners pay a lower effective FBC rate than commercial properties do because the cost of providing fire service to commercial properties is higher than it is for residential properties.

We use the same rules for the senior citizen discount as the County does on your property taxes. Because it is based on income, not all seniors qualify. If you are eligible for the senior discount on your property taxes, it will automatically be applied to your FBC. Senior discounts are administered by your County Assessor’s Office – you must contact them to determine your eligibility.

Under the VRFA service and funding plan approved by the voters, sprinkler
discounts are only applied to commercial properties.

The appeal procedure is outlined on your FBC notice. You can download a copy of the appeal form on our website, one can be mailed to you, or you can come to our headquarters in Auburn to pick one up. It must be either postmarked or delivered by hand to our headquarters by 5:00 PM on January 27, 2020.