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South Kitsap Fire and Rescue board passes $11.6 million budget

The South Kitsap Fire and Rescue Board of Commissioners this month approved the district’s 2010 budget, which totals $11.6 million.

The majority of that amount, $8 million, will be collected from SKFR’s regular levy, and another $3.5 million will be collected from the Emergency Medical Services(EMS) levy, which was renewed in May.

Since the amount of taxes collected by SKFR next year will be less than in 2009, largely due to inflation, the board also passed a resolution of “substantial need.” This allows SKFR to set the levy limit at 101 percent, “in the event this levy capacity is needed in future years.”

“This is the first year we’ve had a reduction in (property) value, which will affect what our taxes will be next year,” said executive assistant Laura Linder. “We are asking the county to set our levy at 101 percent.”

However, Chief Wayne Senter said that the district could be collecting more for its fire levy, but has been “banking” that capacity because of the promise made to voters when it asked for money to hire nine new firefighters in 2006.

“We still have about $640,000 of ‘banked capacity,’ but we made a promise to take only what we needed to hire and pay for the nine firefighters, and we are very careful not to take any more than that,” Senter said. “We could do a lot of good with that (money), but we’re keeping our promise.”

Since 2005, Senter has invited a group of local residents, known as SKFR’s Citizen Budget Review Committee, to oversee the budget process. Before it was presented, members gave their impressions of how the budget was formed.

Kitsap County Undersheriff Dennis Bonneville, who chaired the committee this year, said the fire district was “doing a phenomenal job,” and should be commended for delivering the quality of service it does given its limited resources.

Bonneville said it was unfortunate that the Regional Fire Authority process had halted, and said the district should “keep (its) eyes peeled for other such opportunities, (since) economies of scale would likely be realized.”

Another member of the CBRC, South Kitsap resident Bob Lamb, said he preferred the fire district to remain autonomous.

“You do a wonderful job,” Lamb said. “You gentlemen have control over what you do for us, and we appreciate that.”

Also at the meeting, the board approved an inter-local agreement(ILA) between SKFR and the City of Bremerton regarding emergency services for the South Kitsap Industrial Area(SKIA).

The agreement was needed because while SKIA remains in the fire district’s jurisdiction, the area was annexed into the city of Bremerton last April.

According to the agreement, SKFR will continue to provide “first response services” to the area, and the city of Bremerton will pay the fire district $57,000 annually for those services.

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