Lopez Fire Department Sets Levy Lift Amount

Seventy-five cents per $1,000 assessed valuation.

That’s the number the Lopez Island Fire Department will be asking for on the November ballot. Fire Commissioners Becky Smith, Steve Adams, and John Goekler signed the resolution at the Thursday, Aug. 12 board meeting.

Three weeks earlier the commissioners agreed to ask the people for a lid lift that would increase the department’s tax revenue 35 percent, from $436,874 to $589,780.

The year 2004 is a property re-assessment year, meaning that property values will be increasing. But by how much? San Juan County Assessor Paul Dossett says the amount won’t be known until September, when the assessment cycle is completed.

Commissioners need to submit a resolution to the San Juan County Elections Department no later than Sept. 17 for it to appear on the November ballot. They had hoped to submit it without a tax rate, but were told that this would not be acceptable. In the end, the commissioners decided to go with Dossett’s estimate of a 25 percent increase in valuation.

Taking into account this estimate, in order to arrive at a tax revenue of $589,780, the Fire Department must ask the voters for a levy increase to 75 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation.

The current tax rate is 68 cents per assessed $1,000. According to this formula, the owner of a home valued at $300,000 in 2004 would have paid about $204 to the Fire Department.

For the same home, if the levy lift passes and the property increases by 25 percent, it will be worth $375,000, and about $281 will go to the Fire Department’s coffers. That’s a bottom line increase of $77 dollars.

The Fire Department has been number crunching for some time in an effort to meet the increasing demands of aging equipment, inflation, and a drastically increased call volume.

The department’s 2003 lid lift was defeated by a margin of 84 votes, with 472 voting yes, and 556 voting against the increase.

The commissioners and Chief Rob Miesen feel that by educating the community about the department’s needs, this year’s levy will have a much better chance of passing.

The department plans to conduct some future meetings geared toward this end.

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