Fire District doesn't need its lid lifted

Sound Off is a public forum. Articles are selected from letters to the editor or may be written specifically for this feature. Today, Robert Lamb of Manchester argues South Kitsap doesn’t need a lid lift for Fire District 7.

When I first heard about Fire District 7’s levy request, I was completely in favor.

According to Chief Mike Brown, the increase would only be 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or $20 more on a $200,000 home. In return, the money would bring in $400,000, which would be used to hire and train six new firefighter/EMTs.

Even though the recently completed survey by the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau found District 7 properly manned and, in fact, lowered the district’s rating from 5 to 4 — which is very good — the levy seemed like a good hedge on future growth.

In mid-September, however, the Kitsap County Assessor’s Office advised the district that due to the 15 percent increase in property values, the rate would drop to $1.25. This would mean about the same tax, or slightly more, on a $200,000 home but would be a significant change for the funding of Fire District 7 if the lid is lifted to $1.50. It wouldn’t be the 20 cents Chief Brown originally said he needed, but more like 50 cents.

It would also bring into Fire District 7 a total of $1.1 million. That’s an increase of $700,000, almost three times what Brown said he needed.

District 7 not only didn’t reduce its request, but it made no mention whatsoever of what it did either in the Kitsap County Voter’s Pahmphlet or its own mailer.

Chief Brown did mention cost in a letter dated Sept. 26 (after the district knew there would be an “against” statement in the Voter’s Pamphlet) but even then gave no justification for the increase over his original request or even mentioning it even was an increase.

In the Voter’s Pamphlet the only figures given to support the levy were: “...in 2003 Fire District 7 responded to 8,400 calls for emergency help, a 17 percent increase over the previous year.” The facts are that that these calls went up from 7,200 in 2000 to 8,100 in 2001, decreased to 8,000 in 2002, and then increased to 8,400 in 2003, a 17 percent increase over three years and only a 4 percent increase between 2001 and 2003, not the 17 percent increase in one year claimed by Chief Brown.

The statement against the lid lift in the Voter’s Pamphlet listed either quotes from Chief Brown or figures obtained from the KItsap County Assessor’s Office. In the rebuttal to the statement for the lid lift, again Chief Brown was quoted and the question was asked why the need for a 24 percent increase in taxes.

Chief Brown responded that the statement was “inaccurate,” but offered no support for that assertion.

He then went on to talk about saving the insurance rate, knowing full well that the Rating Bureau only does a check every five years and that District 7 had just been found properly just last month to earn its Level 4 rating. According to Linda Clampitt of the Bureau, that rating is based on current conditions and is not contingent on any future success of a levy.

In the mailer put out by the Fire District just last week, again the $1.40 figure versus the $1.50 figure is used, implying a 10-cent raise.

No mention was made of the true $1.25 figure.

In the Port Orchard Indepedent editorial on Oct. 13, again the $1.40 versus $1.50 comparison is made with no mention of the true cost.

Chief Brown is now saying we can hire and train nine to 12 new firefighters and EMTs with the money. I don’t understand how in August we could hire and train six new firefighter/EMTs for $400,000 and now in October we can only hire nine to 12 new firefighters with three times as much money.

It seems we can’t figure out quickly enough how to spend the new money we don’t need.

Chief Brown said the statements against the lid lift in the Voter’s Pamphlets were “inaccurate.” He even threw in an exclamation mark to indicate how bad it was.

I challenge him to meet with me and the editor of the Independent to chow exactly was was inaccurate.

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