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Are You Prepared to Pay a 47 Percent Higher Amount for Fire and Emergency Medical Services in 2024 Compared to What You Paid in 2022?

This coming Monday, August 8, at 5:30 p.m., the Regional Fire Authority (RFA) planning committee will get together for the 12th time to prepare its recommendations to be presented to the city councils of Olympia and Tumwater the following day.

The committee is going to vote on whether or not to include several critical components of the proposed RFA in its recommendations later today.

This meeting is open to the public and may be viewed by clicking on the following link to access it on Zoom: This report also includes the items that will be presented during the meeting, including the agenda.

Significant Increases Made to the Budgets

According to the documents submitted by the cities, the costs associated with an RFA in this area would considerably increase beginning in the RFA’s first year of operation.

The committee’s consultants estimate that the total budget for the two cities’ fire departments in the year 2022 will be 26,990,894 dollars (see the slide, above).

The planned budget for the RFA in 2024 is $39,747,889, which is an increase of 47 per cent compared to the statistics for 2022.

The budget for the RFA, as it is now envisioned, would continue to expand until it reached $52,938,867 by the year 2030, representing an additional increase of 33 per cent.

Fire Benefit Charge

The controversial “Fire Benefit Charge” (FBC), which might account for up to 60 per cent of the new agency’s financing, is not addressed in any further detail on the agenda.

The FBC would be a fee (not a tax), and the amount of the cost would be determined by the anticipated fire-response requirements of a building, as was previously published in The JOLT. The amount of the FBC would not be directly based on the assessed valuation of the property at any point in time.

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Since the FBC would be a fee rather than a tax, it would not be subject to the collections cap that currently restricts increases in Washington state’s property taxes to one per cent on an annual basis.

Because the FBC is considered a “service fee” rather than a tax by the IRS, taxpayers who itemise their deductions will not be able to deduct the cost of the FBC from their taxable income.

“The planning committee will do what’s known as a “deep dive” into the data and look at different models for FBC. They are going to look at the finance proposal.

They are going to look at things like property taxes and the structure of governance “Ann Cook, manager of Tumwater Communications, shared some information regarding the agenda for Monday’s meeting.


Cook stated that the topic of the FBC formula that would be utilised in the process of charging the property owners would be brought up during the conversation. The following is the suggested formula for the FBC, as stated in the documents that were prepared for the meeting:

“(Square root of square footage) multiplied by 18, multiplied by the cost per gallon [of water], multiplied by the category weight factor, multiplied by the discounts and or additional charges [such as ‘effective response factor’ or ‘hazard factor’]”
Cook mentioned that other RFAs in the state utilise a similar formula, but “what makes it distinct is weighted variables,” he said.

The vast majority of RFAs do not have the FBC. According to Karen Reed and Bill Cushman, the consultants for the committee, nine of the other thirteen regional fire authorities do not have a fire benefit charge; instead, they rely on the traditional property tax and commercial inspection fees. This information was provided by the regional fire authorities.

An analyst, speaking off the record, expressed extreme concern regarding the FBC fee, stating that the formula contains factors that are unrelated to fire services, such as emergency medical services. The analyst also expressed extreme concern regarding the FBC fee.

The majority of calls made to fire and emergency services are really for medical emergencies rather than to put out fires. “How does that formula relate to the actual cost of emergency services?” “How does that formula account for inflation?” these reporters, the analyst asked the question.

Plan For Governance

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The fire departments in Olympia and Tumwater are currently organised as city departments and report to the city councils in their respective cities.

The planned Regional Fire Authority would, over the following six years, transfer control away from the cities and into the hands of a brand-new government organisation known as the Regional Fire Authority. The committee intends to recommend a strategy for the change that will take place in two stages:

2023-2025 There are six people on the city council (three from Olympia, three from Tumwater)

Long-term The committee will recommend that beginning in the year 2026, the board consist primarily of elected commissioners and have seven members total.

What is the reason for the RFA being issued?

During the meeting that took place on July 25, Olympia Councilmember Jim Cooper stated that the planning committee has been working on constructing a budget for the RFA “rather than having a strategic conversation about the kinds of service that we are asking for.”

Instead of presenting concrete plans for faster response times, more emergency medical technicians, more fire stations, ambulance-type services, or other potential improvements that might justify to the public a new ownership structure for these city fire departments, the majority of the materials provided by the RFA committee focus on issues such as budgets, staffing levels, and costs, as well as even what to call an eventual RFA. This is because budgets and staffing levels are among the most important aspects of any RFA.

What should I do now?

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Tuesday will be the day that the RFA committee updates both the Olympia city council and the Tumwater city council on their progress. Cook stated that he and his team anticipated receiving permission from both municipal councils to continue the RFA planning.

A meeting in the format of a town hall is going to be held by the RFA committee on August 15, and subsequent sessions are going to be organised for the fall.

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In October, the city councils are going to receive the definitive plan for the RFA that has been suggested. If the municipal councils decide to press forward with it, they will submit a ballot item to the people in 2023 so that they can make a decision about whether or not to continue with it.

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