Regional Fire Authority Financial Study On The Way
In 2004 state legislation allowed municipalities to form a Regional Fire Authority. A Regional Fire Authority (RFA) is a separate taxing district with the sole purpose of providing fire and medical services. An RFA would operate almost identically to a County Fire District as far as funding and governance.
The mayors and council of Union Gap and Yakima requested a joint feasibility study for a Regional Fire Authority between the Cities of Yakima, Union Gap, and Fire District 10 and 11. This feasibility study is moving steadily ahead as planned. A group of over 20 business owners, residents, elected officials, and fire officials from all four jurisdictions have been meeting regularly since January of 2011. The group has collectively opted to hire a financial consultant for the next phase of the study which entails the budgetary and financial aspects of forming a Regional Fire Authority.
Forming a Regional Fire Authority is regulated by several Revised Code of Washington statutes (RCW’s). Among these statutes is the requirement to vote on the plan by elected officials of each jurisdiction and finally the plan must be passed by a vote of the effected citizens.
The code also requires that a municipality reduce property tax collections by the same amount a Regional Fire Authority would apply to property tax.
This means that by law property taxes would not increase in municipalities. Of the seven Regional Fire Authorities formed in Washington so far, voters have opted to apply a benefit charge along with the property tax collection to successfully fund fire and medical services in the two larger RFA’s. Depending on how the benefit charge is applied, a property owner would be taxed $1.00 per thousand of assessed valuation and charged a fee based on required resources to protect their property.
This would mean a large manufacturing facility that requires multiple resources and ladder trucks or special response teams may have a larger fee than an owner of a small single family home. Some home owners may pay less for fire protection than they currently pay, but this will only be revealed by a thorough study.
In Washington State feasibility studies have led voters to form seven regional fire authorities involving over twenty jurisdictions since 2006.
The success of Regional Fire Authorities has prompted many more municipalities to begin the process of feasibility studies.
The Study group has formed a web site so the public can view some of the material that has been covered so far in the feasibility study. The URL for the web site is www.yakimauniongapfireauthority.com