A plan to form a Regional Fire Authority between the city of Marysville and Fire District 12 has been finalized and is going before the Marysville City Council and Fire District 12 commissioners soon.
A Regional Fire Authority (RFA) is an independent district, similar to a school district, that has taxing authority and runs the fire and emergency services in an area.
The RFA Planning Committee was made up of three Marysville City Council members and all three Fire District 12 commissioners.
The members of the committee unanimously approved the plan to form an RFA, which is now scheduled to go before the full Marysville City Council and before the Fire District 2 commissioners.
Talks between Marysville officials and Fire District 12 officials have been going on for multiple years about how to restructure the local fire services.
Officials on both sides were primarily concerned about keeping the current service level, which was becoming increasingly difficult because of finances.
“As it is structured currently, the services offered now were not sustainable,” said Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring.
Marysville Fire District Chief Martin McFalls said it was a “big relief” to finally have a plan in place.
“With this RFA, it will help us maintain the current service levels,” McFalls said.
There are also possibilities to improve service levels, he said. “The list is endless when it comes to emergency service opportunities for improvement,” he said.
The RFA would cover the same area as the current Marysville Fire District, which is with the Marysville city limits and Fire District 12.
Fire District 12 includes neighboring areas like Seven Lakes, Lakewood and parts of Tulalip.
The district and the city have worked together for a while now.
“When Marysville was smaller we couldn’t necessarily afford, or even wanted, our own fire department,” said Nehring.
That’s how the Marysville Fire District formed, with a partnership which saw both Fire District 12 and the city have about equal control.
“But as Marysville grew we’re now 80 percent of the entire operation,” said Nehring. The RFA plan re-organizes the governing structure to give a more proportional weight.
“All those things that were a little outdated are rectified by this agreement,” said Nehring.
“The fire services in the Marysville area have always cooperated regionally,” said McFalls. “This is an opportunity to formalize that partnership."
It is also possible to expand the RFA into neighboring districts in the future as well.
Currently, the city and the district collect property tax money and then give it to the Marysville Fire District for fire services.
An RFA model would cut out the middle man.
“The taxes that are going to the city right now that we pay in the form of an inter-local agreement would be going directly to the RFA,” said Nehring. “It will allow for this entire area to be governed and funded by everyone in the area."
The district and the city would also have to run separate levies to fund the fire district, but an RFA would not do that.
An RFA would also have to put most of its tax increases out for a public vote as well.
“They are kind of like a school district, in that you have to go out to the voters,” said Nehring.
McFalls said the Marysville Fire District is funded about 85 percent through property taxes right now and said it would look similarly as an RFA.
The RFA model has been adopted by many communities in western Washington over the last decade.
“As you look around you see most communities going toward an RFA,” said Nehring. “It’s expensive for a city to run it’s own fire department and so I think cities look at how to combine forces to be more efficient."
If the RFA plan receives approval from the Marysville City Council and Fire District 12 it will still have to be approved by voters as well though.
City and district officials are looking at putting the measure on the ballot in April 2019.
“We’ve had two public meetings and we intend to hit the ground running once we submit the ballot measure to the county, pending the approval of the plan of course” said McFalls.
“If the council approves this and the district commissioners approve this then we’ll begin an outreach effort and educate people,” said Nehring.