EFR partners to discuss changes to funding model

October 17, 2013

By Staff

A plan to discuss future funding options for Eastside Fire & Rescue is more tentative that had initially been reported by the SnoValley Star in the Oct. 17 issue.

At the EFR board meeting Oct. 10, there had been a series of motions about how to possibly fund fire service in the region. None of the motions, however, were final decisions. Instead, the motions suggested that board members take a set of ideas back to their respective agencies for further discussion. Several of these ideas have been kicking around for the past few months, if not longer.

EFR is a regional fire protection agency comprised of the cities of Sammamish, Issaquah and North Bend, and King County Fire Districts 10 and 38. Each year, the agency sets a budget and each partner contributes to fund it. Those contributions are based on the assessed value of the properties within each partner’s boundaries.

Sammamish representatives have long complained that, due to the city’s relatively high value properties, the city pays more than its fair share – effectively subsidizing fire service in other areas.

The agreement that underpins EFR expires at the end of 2014. If any agency wants to leave the partnership, they must give notice by the end of this year. Sammamish is seriously considering leaving and is running short on time to make a decision.

Sammamish has, for more than a year, been lobbying for a change to the funding formula that would base it partially on the call volume coming from each jurisdiction. The most recent suggestion was a “75/25 plan” which would base the funding 75 percent on assessed value and 25 percent on call volume.

Complicating the issue, there are multiple versions of the 75/25 plan, some of which get down to splitting costs of specific stations and others which are more global in nature.

Under any of them, Sammamish sees its cost reduced and North Bend’s increasing. Other jurisdictions might see an increase or decrease depending on which version of the plan is under discussion.

At the Oct. 10 meeting, board members voted to take back to their respective boards the concept that the funding model be changed to a 75/25 model, but which version of the 75/25 model was not specified.

The various agencies would each discuss if this might be something they were willing to do for a three-year period. During this period, the partners would continue to negotiate a long-term solution. It does not call for the various partners to actually adopt any formal plan. That idea was approved on a 6-0 vote, with the Sammamish representatives abstaining.

The board also suggested that each partner might want to discuss the idea of extending the current EFR model for one year to allow more time for negotiations. They also decided that each partner should discuss whether or not the idea of funding the agency through an assessed value model (the current model) was a deal breaker, or if they might be willing to consider negotiating.

Similar to the first proposal, neither of these call for any of the agencies to make formal decisions, just that they discuss them. Both of these were also approved on a 6-0 vote, with the Sammamish representatives abstaining.

The city of Sammamish expects to decide whether to remain with the EFR partnership at its Nov. 12 meeting.

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