The Marysville Fire District held an open house on March 26 to help inform residents about the upcoming vote in April to form a Regional Fire Authority.
Community members came down to the Shoultes station to meet firefighters and learn about the Regional Fire Authority (RFA) measure that residents of Marysville and Fire District 12 will vote on in the April 23 election.
Local officials decided to put the RFA measure on the ballot after years of budget deficits for the Marysville Fire District.
As the population grew in the fire district, calls also increased and strained the budget for fire and emergency services in the area.
“We’ve undergone a lot of change since we began as a joint operating district in 1992,” said Martin McFalls, Fire Chief for the district.
The number and types of calls have changed as well.
“Right now our crews are responding to the opioid epidemic, homelessness issues, and mental healthcare,” said McFalls. “We have a variety of traumatic social issues that we respond to."
Because of those challenges the district has been operating by pulling money from its reserve fund for a number of years.
“We need to move to a different financial model, and if we don’t we truly are facing service cuts as soon as next year,” said McFalls.
RFAs are models that the state allows to combine districts into an independent entity that is allowed to collect some property tax dollars.
“It’s a special-purpose district. I relate it to a water district or a library district,” said McFalls.
Those funding options would open up more potential for consistent, stable revenue for the fire and emergency services in the area.
“Today, fire and EMS is funded through the city of Marysville’s general fund and the property tax levy for the citizens in the district,” said McFalls.
Under an RFA model all the money would go directly to the RFA instead of going through the city and Fire District 12 first.
The proposed April 23 measure would set a property tax of $1.45 per $1,000 of assessed property value for all members of the RFA.
That would mean about $11 per month of residents of Fire District 12, which includes some areas of Tulalip and unincorporated Snohomish County around Marysville.
The Marysville City Council has stated their intent to reduce the city’s property tax rate to offset most of the increase in property tax for city residents, according to McFalls.
If they do as planned Marysville residents would pay around $20 more per month.
If the RFA is approved there are no plans to change the personnel from the current Marysville Fire District and the service area would also not change.
McFalls does think that there will be some upgrades for the district though.
“We think we’ll get immediately service improvements in terms of response times,” he said.
There are approximately a dozen RFAs across the state, the most recent of which is in south Snohomish County.
“RFAs are always created by a vote of the people, from the people served,” said McFalls.
More information about the potential Marysville RFA is available at marysvillewa.gov/rfa.