Fire District asks city to annex

"A Fire District 7 proposal to annex the city into the district could put more money into the city coffers for police, public works, parks or other city projects.Fire Chief Mike Brown told the Port Orchard City Council May 29 the suggestion is just a proposal, but annexing could streamline services, eliminate duplication, improve efficiency and free up city tax revenue currently paid to the fire district for its services.Councilmembers put off making a decision on the proposal until their June 11 meeting in order to gather public input and provide more information to curious city residents.Obviously, the community hasn't had much of an opportunity to hear about this, said Councilman John Clauson, though he added he was supportive of the proposal. Councilman Tom Stansbery agreed. This will be the first time the public hears anything about it, he said.Currently, the city of Port Orchard contracts with the fire district for fire service. The city levies a $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value tax to residents and writes a check to the fire district for the full amount it receives.But that $1.50 per $1,000 counts against the city's state-mandated levy cap. Even if the city wanted to raise taxes for a special parks acquisition, public works project or to hire more police officers, it couldn't because, based on state law, city officials can't raise the tax rate past the cap without a popular vote.However, if the city annexes into the fire district, the fire district will tax the citizens itself, thereby freeing up the $1.50 per $1,000 the city currently levies for fire service and rendering it available for city use. According to Fire District 7's estimate, the merger could essentially redirect about $88,864 back to the city.Citizens wouldn't feel any difference as far as property taxes for fire service goes - Fire District 7 levies the same $1.50 per $1,000 tax as the city - but, under the proposal, that tax would no longer be paid to the city. City councilmembers could opt to lower city taxes by that amount or to keep collecting them for other projects.In addition, Brown said, if the city annexes to the fire district, the district could improve its class rating, which could result in about $12,500 in insurance premium savings annually. Fire districts involved in contracts, which Fire District 7 is with the city, don't qualify for the improved rating.Brown suggested if the council approves the proposal, it could be packaged as a public safety issue with the money used to pay for police officers. We believe it would be supported handsomely by both our jurisdictions, he told the city council.Assistant Chief Gary Faucett concurred. Since it's a health and safety issue, (Fire District 7) would rather have more (police) officers, he said, although, he added, Fire District 7 personnel have no say. It's just a recommendation.If the Port Orchard City Council agrees to go forward with the proposal, Fire District 7 personnel would being preparations to get the proposal on the November ballot for voter approval. "

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