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South County Fire considers benefit charge

Post Date:06/25/2020 6:00 PM
The Board of Fire Commissioners for South County Fire will hold a public hearing July 7 on a resolution asking voters to consider a benefit charge during the November General Election. The hearing begins at 7 p.m. and will take place via teleconference. Residents interested in viewing the meeting or providing public comment can learn how to do so at

An election to consider a benefit charge would not apply to voters in Brier, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace. Residents of these cities receive emergency services through a contract their city has signed with South County Fire.

Currently, emergency services for South County Fire residents are funded by two levies paid through property taxes. The emergency medical services (EMS) levy is capped at 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The fire levy is capped at $1.50 per $1,000. 

With a benefit charge, the fire levy is reduced from $1.50 to $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value and an annual charge is established based on a property’s size and use. Smaller structures (such as single-family homes) are charged less than larger ones (such as commercial developments) because it costs less to serve them in an emergency. 

Voters in more than two dozen Washington communities (such as Shoreline, Woodinville, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, and Renton) have approved a benefit charge because it is a fairer way to fund emergency services. The benefit charge will expire in six years unless renewed by voters. Seniors, disabled persons, and low-income households maintain any current exemptions they have through the county. There is also a discount for fire alarms and sprinkler systems. 

If approved by voters, South County Fire plans to set the benefit charge at a rate resulting in a $1.3 million revenue decrease for 2021. This is possible because of increased revenue the fire authority is receiving to provide service to Medicaid patients. 

South County Fire is a regional fire authority dedicated to protecting life, property and the environment for more than 250,000 people over 50 square miles in southwest Snohomish County, including the city of Lynnwood. It also serves the cities of Brier, Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds through three different contracts for service.
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