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Oct. 24, 2020

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Washougal levy for firefighting up for renewal

City officials estimate $171,400 in revenue on the line on Nov. 3 ballot

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Published:

Washougal voters will decide on Nov. 3 whether to renew a six-year property tax levy for its share of the funding for the Camas-Washougal Fire Department.

The proposition gives voters the option to approve a tax of 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value beginning in 2021. Owners of a $400,000 property would pay $40 annually.

The proposition needs majority approval to pass.

If it doesn’t pass, city officials estimate, the result would be $171,400 in lost revenue. City officials have said that the lost revenue would potentially result in cuts and threaten the agreement with the city of Camas that facilitates the department.

“Obviously that would be a difficult situation for us,” Washougal City Manager David Scott told the city council at a July 13 workshop.

The current levy, which was identical to the proposed one, was passed in 2014 with 58.59 percent of the vote.

A “statement against” this year’s proposition was not included in the local voter’s pamphlet.

A survey of city residents earlier this year revealed 81 percent support for a replacement levy of at least 10 cents per $1,000.

While the survey provided residents a range of options as high as 27.5 cents per $1,000, the 10-cent option was the most popular.

City councilors had discussed a 15-cent option throughout this year, which would have provided enough revenue to fund two full-time positions in the fire department. But while the council expressed a desire for the additional funding, it agreed that the economic impacts of COVID-19 made the pitch to voters more challenging.

“There was a lot of conversation about the stability and perceived safety, if you would, of asking for a dime,” Scott said.

The council did, however, discuss the option of another levy lid lift on top of this year’s proposition – possibly as soon as 2021.

“So that would be a discussion for another year,” Mayor Molly Coston said at a July 27 meeting.

The fire department estimates that it responds to roughly 5,000 calls each year. It covers about 20 square miles between the two cities and also has a mutual aid agreement with East County Fire & Rescue, which serves nearby unincorporated areas.

Jack Heffernan: 360-735-4541; jack.heffernan@columbian.com; twitter.com/JackTHeffernan

Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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