Mill Creek Explores Changing Fire Agencies

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Mill Creek Explores Changing Fire Agencies

SNOHOMISH COUNTY – Mill Creek is considering switching fire service providers after shopping. The change came after Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue looked into the price the city is paying.
The city has a $ 4.34 million contract that will be served by Snohomish Regional for 2022.
About a year ago, the Monroe-based fire department gave Mill Creek a choice: raise the contract price that town hall pays from 2023 to continue the service, or arrange to be annexed so that residents pay fire taxes at the same rate as everyone else in the neighborhood.
Instead, on December 14, Mill Creek City Council voted to explore annexation to South County Fire. South County Fire would be cheaper for long-term residents, a city consultant presented earlier this month.
Any annexation requires a public vote to be subject to taxes.
South County Fire’s overall tax burden is generally less expensive for residential owners and for all but the largest commercial building owners, according to a chart by a Mill Creek consultant. Its tax model uses both a property tax and a fire indemnity charge.
“We would be disappointed to see Mill Creek choose another fire and EMS agency but respect City Council’s decision to seek services elsewhere,” Snohomish Regional Fire Chief Kevin O’Brien said by email. .
O’Brien added that Snohomish Regional stepped down in the interest of fairness: “We cannot in good conscience ask our taxpayers to pay more (as they agreed to do during our recent lifting of the lid. of the fire tax) when the city ‘, meaning Mill
Creek, “pays about half of that amount.” That’s why we advised the city that the contract would not be renewed without an increase in costs.
Mill Creek is served by Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue, formerly known as Fire District 7, long before the town was incorporated in 1983. The partnership began in 1945.
In 2019, Fire District 7 merged with the voter-approved Lake Stevens Fire to create the current Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue.
Snohomish Regional has requested annexation on several occasions, O’Brien said. “There was no incentive for the city to do it because the tariff they paid for fires and EMS was so low,” he wrote.
Months after being ordered to decide, the city began speaking with South County Fire this summer.
For an average $ 600,000 house, it would cost around $ 850 in taxes under South County Fire, compared to around $ 1,100 under Snohomish Regional Fire and Rescue.
South County Fire’s base tax rate is currently 93 cents per $ 1,000 of property value, plus it charges fire fees that vary based on square footage and use. a building. South Fire County’s maximum allowable base tax rate is $ 1.00 per $ 1,000 of property value because it carries a fire indemnity fee, the South County spokesperson explained Fire, Leslie Hynes.
The Snohomish Regional Fire and Rescue tax rate is $ 1.50 per $ 1,000 without fire benefit charges.
Both agencies also charge EMS direct debits.
Snohomish Regional can afford to lose Mill Creek’s contract, its fire chief has said. The $ 4.3 million contract will provide about 5% of the overall fire district budget in 2022.
“SRFR is financially sound and has long-term financial planning policies in place,” O’Brien wrote. “Through these actions, we will be able to absorb the loss without negatively impacting operations in other areas of the district. “
Snohomish Regional estimated its services would cost the Mill Creek community a total of $ 9.37 million by 2023 if they were annexed. The South County Fire estimate is around $ 7 million if annexation occurs.
The two fire departments want Mill Creek to annex, according to the city.
A fire station in Mill Creek is jointly owned by Mill Creek and Snohomish Regional. If the city went to South County Fire, the city would pay Snohomish Regional for that fire station. Snohomish Regional would then move its emergency car from Station 76 to another station and may delay the purchase of a replacement vehicle from the fleet, O’Brien explained.
“South County Fire looks forward to working with Mill Creek and has long supported regionalization as the most cost-effective way to provide high quality emergency and fire medical services,” said the Chairman of the South County Fire Board of Commissioners, Greg Urban, in a statement.

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