If Spokane Valley voters want to go after wasteful government agencies we can think of a few targets, but their fire department isn’t one of them.
The Valley Fire Department provides urban-quality fire and paramedic service at a bargain price - $102 per capita, versus $121 in the city of Spokane, $142 in Seattle, $202 in Bellevue and $247 in Bellingham.
While the department’s obligations are urban in character, under state law its basic taxing power is the one designed in 1939 for rural fire districts. To get its job done, the department must ask voters every year for a supplemental levy. For the first time in decades, in September the levy failed, by a mere 113 votes. Confusing lawyerlanguage in the September ballot title might have misled voters into thinking this could be a tax increase. Not so.
This proposed levy, which appears with clearer wording on the Nov. 5 ballot, will fund 56 percent of the department’s operating budget. It will cost $1.49 per $1,000 of property valuation, the same rate Valley residents pay now, and the same rate they’ve paid since 1991.
Without this levy fire stations will close, paramedics and firefighters will be laid off and Valley residents and businesses will see service deteriorate and fire insurance rates soar. Vote yes.
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