Voters will decide on annexation into fire district

"The Port Orchard City Council agreed June 11 to support an annexation of the city into Fire District 7 that could result in higher taxes, but lower insurance rates.City staff are currently drafting an ordinance to place the annexation on the November ballot.If approved by the voters, the city's contract with Fire District 7 for fire service will end and the fire district will assume taxing and coverage for the whole area. If approved, essentially the city will be out of the fire business and will turn the entire operation over to the fire district, said City Councilman John Clauson.Under the current city contract with the fire district, the city collects $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value from residents and writes a check to the fire district for the whole amount.Fire District 7 Chief Mike Brown told the council it's an inefficient and duplicative system - and one that diverts city property tax revenue from other city needs, like additional police or public works projects.That's because state legislators set a cap on how much taxing districts can tax residents. Because of the fire service tax currently levied by the city, the city is almost at its taxing capacity - even though $1.50 of the revenue goes directly to the fire district.By annexing into the fire district and allowing the fire district to tax everyone, that frees up some space within that cap for the city to tax residents for other things. Because the fire district's and city's fire service levy rates are equal, both set at $1.50 per $1,000, residents won't notice any difference in the taxes they pay for fire service.But city taxes could go up about $.30 per $1,000 of assessed value, meaning residents could see an overall increase in the amount of taxes they pay. City officials have indicated this November, they will likely increase the city tax. That's, in effect, new money for the city, Clauson said. We're proposing to increase to that level, and, most likely it will go toward additional police.At the same time, annexing could result in a decrease in fire insurance premiums for residents by improving the fire district's rating. Fire districts that maintain contracts, like Fire District 7 does now with the city, don't qualify for the rating upgrade. By getting a rating improvement, the district essentially shows it can provide better, faster service, which presumably would result in reduced losses from fire or accidents. Insurance companies like to see that, and they lower the fire coverage premiums for customers living in fire districts with good ratings. The advantage to annexation is that when they have complete control, they're able to do things required by the fire rating service - the folks who decide what insurance rating would be, Clauson said. "

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