Frequently Asked Questions about our Fire Levy "Lid Lift"
We realize this can be a confusing and complicated request, but here are the FACTS regarding the levy lid lift your Snohomish County Fire District 7 is seeking on the November ballot:
What's on my ballot?
Snohomish County Fire District 7 is asking voters to return the fire levy back to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. This is called a “fire levy lid lift.”
Why is my fire district asking for a lid lift?
Fire District 7 currently funds all its daily operations and capital needs through its regular operating levies for fire and emergency medical service. ($1.50 for fire and 50 cents for EMS.) This means the fire district pays for apparatus, equipment, and station renovations through its operating budget, as opposed to requiring voter-approved bonds, which is an additional property tax.
Have voters approved this amount before?
Yes, voters approved a fire levy of $1.50 per $1,000 in 2016. The fire levy has fallen to $1.36/$1,000 since that time.
How much will the lid lift cost?
The 14-cent lid lift would cost the owner of a $450,000 home an additional $63 per year ($5.25 per month).
How long will it last?
The lid lift would last for one year, and then the levy rate would start to fall again.
Why do levy rates fall?
Levy rates fall as property values rise to limit the fire district to roughly the same amount of revenue per year, plus a one percent increase allowed by law. This one percent is not keeping up with the demand for service or inflation which is almost three percent for our area.
What will it pay for?
The fire levy pays for daily operations, such as emergency personnel, equipment, apparatus, medical supplies, and facility repairs or replacement.
What is the fire district doing to make our tax dollars stretch further?
Fire District 7 has strong financial practices that enable it to fund operations and capital needs through its two operating levies for fire and EMS. Many agencies have to bond for capital needs, which would be another tax on your property tax statement. The last time the fire district asked for a bond was in 1978. The fire district also has merged with Monroe Fire and Lake Stevens Fire to share costs for programs and services.
Is this an additional $1.50 per $1,000? Can the fire levy ever exceed $1.50 per $1,000?
No, there is only one fire levy. This lid lift returns the fire levy to $1.50 per $1,000. And, by state law, the fire levy can never exceed $1.50 per $1,000.
Did the mergers with Monroe or Lake Stevens cause the need for the lid lift?
No. Many fire districts are merging or partnering with neighboring agencies to improve service and be more efficient. For example, Monroe joined Fire District 7 in 2016, which improved service and reduced costs for taxpayers. Voters in Lake Stevens Fire agreed to merge during the August 2019 election, which allows for better deployment of personnel and administrative efficiencies.
Doesn’t the fire district get more taxes because of increasing property values?
The fire district is limited to a one percent revenue increase per year by state law regardless of how much a home appreciates in value. In other words, we do not receive a 15 percent increase in revenue if your home value increases by that amount.
What about taxes from “new growth”?
This tax revenue is used to make sure an emergency response (including adequate staffing levels, apparatus, facilities, equipment, and supplies) is available for new homes in the fire district.
Who votes on this lid lift?
Only registered voters in Fire District 7 vote on the lid lift. Mill Creek voters will not see this measure on their election ballot. The city contracts for emergency services with the fire district and pays for associated costs in staffing the Mill Creek fire stations.
Does the fire district receive money from the state or county?
No. Fire District 7 is separate from the county and state and receives no funding from them. The fire levy is the primary funding source for emergency services.
More about the Levy
Fire District 7 is currently able to fund daily operations and capital needs (such as apparatus and facilities) through its regular levies for fire and emergency medical service. This means the department pays cash for apparatus and station renovations as opposed to asking for bonds to meet these needs, which costs taxpayers more due to interest payments. (The last bond Fire District 7 requested was in 1978.)
The rate of the levies cannot exceed a combined total of $2 per $1,000 of assessed property value ($1.50 for fire and 50 cents for EMS). However, levy rates fall as property values rise to limit the fire district to the same amount of revenue per year, plus a one percent increase allowed by law. This one percent is not keeping up with rising call volumes or inflation. That’s why voters are asked to “lift the lid” and restore funding for emergency services to previously-approved levy rates.
For example, voters in Fire District 7 approved a fire levy of $1.50 per $1,000 in 2016. Since that time, the fire levy has fallen to $1.36 per $1,000. Fire District 7 is asking voters to return the fire levy back to $1.50 in the November 5 General Election. This would cost the owner of a $450,000 home an additional $63 per year or $5.25 per month. The lid lift would last for one year and can never exceed the voter-approved rate of $1.50/$1,000.
Fire and EMS levies are the primary source of funding for emergency services. SCFD7 does not receive funding from the county, state or through sales tax.
Funding will be used to respond to higher call volumes and maintain emergency service levels. Specifically, it will fund emergency personnel, equipment, apparatus, medical supplies, and some facility repairs or replacement without having to bond for these items, which costs taxpayers more.