Monday, June 1, 2020
June 1, 2020

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Clark County Fire District 6 weighs asking voters for levy lid lift

Chief cites growing call volume; it’s topic of Tuesday meeting

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Published:

Clark County Fire District 6 might ask voters to increase its property tax levy this summer as call volumes continue to grow.

The fire district’s commission is scheduled to discuss a levy lid lift, raising the property tax rate for homeowners from $1.16 per $1,000 assessed value to $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value. That increase would cost the owner of a $350,000 home an additional $9.92 per month.

The resolution will be discussed at a meeting Tuesday. If a resolution is approved, the lid lift would appear on the Aug. 4 primary election ballot.

Under state law, the amount of property taxes collected can increase by no more than 1 percent a year, barring a public vote to lift the levy lid. District voters approved a $1.50 per $1,000 levy in 2015, but under the law, rising property values in the district meant the levy had to fall to $1.16 per $1,000 to keep revenue increases within the 1 percent limit.

More than half of the fire district’s revenue comes from the fire levy.

The district has seen a nearly 30 percent rise in calls over the past five years. There were about 8,800 calls last year alone, 12.9 percent more than the previous year, the district said.

“We’re starting to hit that tipping point where we don’t have the apparatus available on some calls,” Fire District 6 Chief Kristan Maurer said.

The fire district provides protection over 37 square miles — including Hazel Dell, Salmon Creek, Mount Vista, Felida and Lake Shore — and 75,000 people. It has 52 active-duty firefighters, three battalion chiefs, three training officers, four administrative chiefs and 20 volunteers.

Maurer said the district would use the extra revenue to fund additional personnel and offer improved training and equipment. More specifics will be determined as the fire district works through a strategic planning process, which will likely conclude before the August election, Maurer said. But she said, for example, that a new firefighter position typically costs $100,000 per year.

“We’re looking at an additional deployment unit, but we’re not sure exactly how we’re going to staff that yet,” Maurer said.

The fire district also hopes to complete a seismic retrofit of its Hazel Dell station, the district’s busiest location. That project would likely cost about $5 million, Maurer said.

The 2015 lid lift passed by 73.61 percent. Maurer noted that the projects promised before that vote were completed on time and under budget, improving the community insurance rating that is connected to home and business owners’ premiums.

“We have a good history of doing what we say,” Maurer said. “Of course, we always hope to keep that support.”

Maurer said that, should a resolution not pass, the fire district would likely scrap plans to upgrade the Hazel Dell station and, in terms of other functions it hopes to enhance, “maintain the status quo, essentially.”

“As our call volume increases, our response time will also increase,” Maurer said.

The commission meeting on Tuesday will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Hazel Dell station, 8800 N.E. Hazel Dell Ave. Residents may comment at the meeting or submit written comments to kristan.maurer@ccfd6.org or the station address.

Additional information can be found at www.ccfd6.org, which will be updated periodically before the vote along with the fire district’s Facebook page, Maurer said. She also said that district representatives are available to any groups who would like meet about the lid lift.

Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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