By JESSICA SPARKS
Published May 30, 2012
Falling home values hurting fire district’s budget
MONROE - The Monroe Fire District 3 will be running a new maintenance and operations levy in the August primary.
The fire district’s current levy, which pays for fire protection services, isn’t collecting as much as it used to because assessed home values have plummeted during the recession.
The fire department relies heavily on property taxes to pay for fire and emergency medical services, which includes labor and equipment costs. Double-digit drops in home values has resulted in losses for the fire department’s operating budget. In 2009, the maintenance and operations levy collected approximately $6.9 million. In 2013, the department estimates the current levy amount will collect only $4.7 million, resulting in a nearly $2.2 million loss from 2009 to 2013.
To make up for the loss and to avoid significant cuts in 2013, the department is running a brand-new levy in the August primary. It will be asking for about $14.40 per month from the average Monroe homeowner.
In 2009, the average homeowner paid $47.12 per month for fire services. In 2013 and if the new levy is approved by voters, the average homeowner will pay $44.40 per month. If the new levy fails, the district will collect only $30 per month from the average homeowner.
The drop is a result of declining assessed home values. The average home was valued at $204,600 in 2012 by the Snohomish County Assessor’s Office. Home values are expected to drop 12 percent in 2013 or down to $180,048.
The new four-year levy would make up some of the loss created by declining home values.
The department has cut its budget over the years, including canceling all capital projects and delaying replacement equipment purchases. Employees also volunteered to give up wage increases built into their contracts.
Fire Chief Jamie Silva says the department is at the point it needs additional revenue to maintain current service levels.
If the levy fails, the department says it will cut 12 full-time firefighters and six part-time firefighters and special programs like the water/flood rescue program will be eliminated. The Wagner Hill Fire Station 32 will close as well.
The fire department will hold a community meeting to discuss the levy at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 12 at the East County Senior Center, 276 Sky River Parkway.