People in the areas of East County served by Fire District 5 could be in for some serious changes after the November election if the district’s levy lid lift fails again. The district’s commissioners talked more Monday night about what options the district has to balance its budget if voters reject their funding request again.
“Everything’s on the table, everything from personnel to equipment to services and so forth,” Chief Dan Prater said. “You would most likely see non-essential services like rescue teams go away, and non-essential programs. Fire prevention would be cut, cuts in training programs, cuts in staffing, everything from volunteer programs to career staff.”
Prater and the commissioners were still scratching their heads over why their levy lid lift was the only item to fail on the August ballot. After a series of public meetings and various outreach efforts, very few district residents responded with any feedback or questions at all.
Prater said their working theory is that people misunderstood what they were being asked: The lid lift doesn’t add $1.50 per $1,000 of their home’s value on the existing levy, it’s more like 8 cents. The total change for a $150,000 home would be about $12 more per year.
Overall, the district estimates the lid lift would bring in $236,840. The lift would expire in 2018 and the district could ask the voters then to keep the 8-cent increase intact.
Prater said he’s worried about the district’s aging water tender truck, which brings water to fires. If that fails the fire district’s rating for homeowners insurance would change from a 7 to a 9A. For most homeowners, that would mean a bump in their insurance of between $150 and $300 per year, he said.
“Either give us — could be $8 to $30 — depending on value of your home, or give $150 or so to an insurance company,” Prater said. He encouraged homeowners to ask their insurance companies about what the rating change for the fire district would mean for them.
Each vote could make the difference in November, Prater said. The difference between yes and no in August was about 62 votes.
“We think that there’s more yes votes out there, they just didn’t fill it out and turn it in,” Prater said.
The district’s budget problems have been building for years with a combination of service contract issues and aging equipment. Prater said the district is already more than $10,000 overbudget for the year for its equipment costs.
“It’s because it’s so old we’re just trying to keep it on the road,” he said.
Call volume has also been steadily increasing, and a court ruling last year left the district looking for a way to pay back Grays Harbor Energy fees it overpaid. The district’s share of that repayment is $176,790.
“They definitely want to try to keep positive. The biggest question from everyone in the room was, they don’t know why. They’re wanting to hear that,” Prater said of the district’s commissioners. Prater asked anyone with questions about the levy lid lift or a reason they could share for their opposition to call the firehouse at 482-3143.
Brionna Friedrich, a Daily World writer, can be reached at 537-3933, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org