Fire Station 78 in Covington. Photo pulled from the RFA’s website.

Fire Station 78 in Covington. Photo pulled from the RFA’s website.

Covington backs RFA’s proposed tax restoration

Proposition 1 would increase RFA’s tax rate to original amount

Another property tax to consider is placed on this year’s ballot.

During the July 9 regular Covington City Council meeting, a public hearing was held in response to Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority’s (RFA) Proposition 1 ballot measure. The idea was to see if Covington residents thought the city should endorse this proposition.

The RFA serves Covington, Maple Valley, Hobart, Ravensdale, Kent, SeaTac and portions of unincorporated King County. The levy is set to run in the Aug. 6 King County primary election.

This proposition will authorize the RFA to restore its regular property tax rate to $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The tax rate is $.706 per $1,000 of assessed value. This will not change what the property owner is paying in taxes per year, according to the RFA.

This is because it has a two-part funding system — this property tax plus the fire benefit charge. The benefit charge is a service fee based on the square footage of a voter’s home and the amount of resources needed to extinguish a fire, according to RFA’s website.

“Due to voter approved limits, property tax collections cannot exceed a 1 percent increase per year. As a result of this limitation, the benefit charge portion of our funding has gradually increased,” it said on the website.

If the measure is approved, the department will be able to lower the benefit charged to all parcels in the fire authority based on it’s size and use.

By rebalancing the two-part funding system, the department will be able to maintain and improve fire protection, prevention, emergency medical services and the protection of life and property in the RFA’s response area, it said on the RFA website.

During the public hearing in Covington, only two community members spoke — one was in favor of this tax, while the other was not.

A retired firefighter named Bud Sizemore said he is in support of Proposition 1.

“I’m here to ask for your support of endorsing this measure before the voters in August as a responsible public safety maintenance effort. I’m not longer running these calls, but I know the men and women that are and it’s quite a dedicated group of folks,” Sizemore said during the public hearing.

A community member named Leroy Stevenson was opposed to Proposition 1 and the fire benefit charge.

“President Franklin Roosevelt was opposed to government employee unions and I think rightfully so. And what we have here is a basically a government employee union. They may do some fine work, but that’s what they are. They have permanent lobbyists, they’re able use their money to influence elections to elect people to their governance board who will be corporative,” Stevenson said.

“The fire benefit charge — it’s a stupid name and it’s a crooked tax. It is not applied evenly to the people in the district. There are people without buildings who have never been taxed, there are people who are taxed too much, the taxes are applied to our buildings, to your garage, unlike regular property taxes that are based on the living square footage of your house, this is a just a fraud. They can readjust it to meet their needs. Well, they ran out of money. They choose this route to take to have a fire benefit charge and a 1 percent property tax. Now, they want to have to a do over.”

In the end, the council voted to endorse RFA’s Proposition 1. Councilmember Marlla Mhoon moved to support Prop.1 and Mayor Jeff Wagner seconded it.

“We have an excellent relationship with the fire authority. They serve this community well,” Mhoon said.

The final vote was a 3-1 in approval of Prop. 1. Councilmember Fran Hollums didn’t comment when the council made a final vote.

Councilmembers Sean Smith and Margaret Harto were excused from voting.

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