Northwest NEWS

January 11, 1999

Editorial

Why isn't the 1999 benefit charge rate lower?

(This is a copy of a letter sent to Woodinville Fire & Life Safety District.)

   The Woodinville Fire & Life Safety District's notice of its 1999 "benefit charge" of $.325/$1,000 of assessed valuation raises questions.

   While the rate-per-thousand is the same as last year, the district will actually be receiving a great deal more due to increased assessed building valuations. (Since the benefit charge is not a tax, it is not limited by the 106% regular-levy tax lid.)

   So why should increased values of homes and commercial buildings that are driven skyward by growth-management-related supply shortages during a period of great demand, result in increased costs to the district?

   And if there are not increased costs due to increased building valuations, shouldn't the 1999 benefit charge rate be lower than that of 1998, instead of remaining the same? After all, the benefit charge is on top of the much greater amount the district collects on each building for the regular fire tax levy.

   A significant question arises as to how the district determined the cost effects of the 16% increase in the excess tax levy for emergency medical services (EMS). This increase was approved by the voters in 1998, with collections beginning in 1999.

   Since the majority of the district's emergency calls are for medical services, not fires, shouldn't that 16% increase for EMS strengthen the argument that the benefit charge collections should at least remain level, without increasing due to increased assessed valuations?

   Please enter this letter into the public record as a general appeal of the $.325/$1,000 rate for the district's 1999 benefit charge. Please notify me of the hearing date that will follow your February 1st appeal deadline date.

Maxine Keesling, Woodinville