EFR change could cost North Bend

January 16, 2013

By Caleb Heeringa

Sammamish could trim its fire service costs by between $156,000 and $314,000 a year if Eastside Fire & Rescue partners agree to a new funding model that reflects the amount of calls each jurisdiction produces.

But it remains to be seen whether other partners that make up the fire consortium — namely the cities of Issaquah and North Bend — would sign on to a new funding method that would substantially increase their fire bills in the name of maintaining the current incarnation of EFR past 2014.

A committee of elected officials and city staff from each partner met Dec. 20 to discuss the implications of using call load as a factor in determining how much to charge.

EFR currently bases the yearly bill on the assessed value of property covered by each station. Sammamish officials have long complained that this unfairly charges its residents for stations that spend more of their time responding to the city of Issaquah and to Klahanie in District 10.

Committee members discussed using a hybrid model – either 75 percent assessed value and 25 percent based on the amount of calls produced or a 50/50 split.

Representatives for Issaquah and North Bend both pushed for the 75/25 split, while Sammamish leaders continue to advocate for a 50/50 split – something they’ve demanded since last year. Sammamish has threatened to pull out of EFR if its demands are not met.

Making fire bills reflect the use of specific stations would raise Issaquah’s yearly contribution to the agency by approximately $246,000 under the 75/25 model and as much as $492,000 under the 50/50 split. North Bend would also see a rise in its fire bill – approximately $76,000 under the 75/25 model and $151,000 under the 50/50 split.

If EFR were to change its model, attendees discussed phasing in 5 percent increments per year to help Issaquah and North Bend adjust to the change.

The city councils and commissioners of each partner would have to approve any changes to the funding model before reentering the interlocal agreement that underpins EFR.

Sammamish Mayor Tom Odell said the calculations confirm what he and others have suspected for years – that charging partners based on the value of their property doesn’t accurately reflect the amount each partner uses the fire service.

“I think it shows everybody, not just (Sammamish representatives), that there’s a problem out there that has not been addressed,” Odell said.

North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing said he had “mixed feelings” about the proposed changes to the funding model. Hearing said it’s in the best interest of his city to keep the EFR partnership together, since the city and other partners realize significant cost savings by spreading administrative costs across five partners. But a 9.7 percent increase in the annual fire bill would be hard to stomach, regardless of whether it is phased in or not, he said.

“We pay about half of what we would if we were running our own fire department – we get a screaming hot deal (with EFR),” Hearing said. “But having to pass along increases like that at a time when money is tight in the city budget would be difficult.”

 

How much money?
Sammamish and King County Fire Districts 10 and 38 would save money if EFR were to begin charging partners based on the amount of calls that originate in their territory, although Issaquah and North Bend would see more expensive fire bills. Below, the percentage change in payments for each partner based on different funding models. (AV means assessed value)
75 percent AV/        50 percent AV/        100 percent calls
25 calls            50 calls
Sammamish    (-2.8 percent)        (-5.5 percent)        (-11.65 percent)
Issaquah    4.8 percent        9.7 percent        23.1 percent
North Bend    9.7 percent        19.5 percent        47.6 percent
District 10    (-1.1 percent)        (-2.2 percent)        (-7.3 percent)
District 38    (-6.85 percent)        (-13.7 percent)        (-29.8 percent)

 

Reporter Caleb Heeringa can be reached at 392-6434. ext. 247.

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