Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue is asking the community to vote in favor of a 10-cent levy increase to help maintain and increase the demands of their operations. If approved, the levy would tax $1.50 per $1,000 assessed property value.

Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue Chief John Sinclair is working hard to help voters understand ballot language of the fire levy lid lift as they prepare to go to the polls on Nov. 6.

KVFR is asking voters to approve the levy to help maintain and adequately fund their operations.

If approved, property tax levy would be restored to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for collection in 2019 and authorizes annual increases of up to 103 or 3 percent over the next five succeeding years.

This is an increase of 10 cents from $1.40. The $1.50 fire levy rate was last approved in 2007.

There has been some confusion regarding the proposition after voters received their ballots in the mail and the language describing the ballot appeared to ask for a significantly higher tax.

Kittitas County Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Horner explained how Washington law requires limit factors to be expressed on ballots.

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) requires limit factors to be expressed as 101, 102, and 103 percent.

“State law requires that a “lid lift” ballot proposition contain a limit factor, which is expressed as a percentage over 100,” Horner said.

He said the reason why this language is used is because a limit factor of less than 100 percent would result in a decrease to the district’s revenue.

“A district’s levy limit each year is calculated by multiplying the district’s levy in a prior year by the limit factor,” Horner said. “For example, if the district’s previous levy was $100 and is multiplied by a limit factor of 103 percent, this results in a new levy of $103. Contrast that with multiplying $100 by 3 percent, which results in a new levy of only $3. In this respect, expressing the limit factor as a percentage over 100 percent on the ballot title removes any doubt that a district is looking for a levy increase, and is a way for the voters to tell the assessor specifically which numbers to use when calculating the district’s levy.”

Sinclair said he understands the language is confusing, but it’s important to understand the proposition is not asking for a 103 percent increase of taxes year after year.

According to Sinclair, local governments are at a 101 percent cap, which means revenue can only increase by 1 percent per year, which is why KVFR is asking for the levy to be approved.

The costs of emergency services are growing at a faster rate, between 3 and 4 percent per year.

In another example, Sinclair said even if property values climb by 10 percent, the fire district would still only receive three percent.

Voters are encouraged to call KVFR Chief John Sinclair at 509-856-7714 with questions about the levy.

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