The Board of Fire Commissioners for Benton County Fire District 4 is holding a public hearing to discuss a resolution calling for a Fire Levy lid lift to hire more emergency personnel. If approved, voters could see the measure on the August 4 Primary Election ballot. The meeting will be Thursday, March 19 at 6:00 p.m. at 2604 Bombing Range Road in West Richland (99353).
Community members who are unable to attend the meeting, but would like to provide comment, are encouraged to contact Acting Chief Paul Carlyle. He can be reached at [email protected], or by mailing to the meeting address. All communication is welcome and becomes part of the public record.
Call volumes have increased 78.3 percent for the Fire District since 2010 due to growth and an aging population that relies more on emergency services. The Fire District has a plan to meet this increase in demand for service in a way that minimizes impacts to taxpayers.
For example, it asked the community to fund a new fire station, which was approved in 2018. Building and equipping a new station can take two or three years. The next step is to hire additional personnel to meet the increase in demand for service throughout the District. Finding the right people – interviewing, testing and background checks – can take almost a year and would need to be funded through a lid lift. If approved by voters, the lid lift would take effect in 2021.
“We have been strategic in how we do this,” said Acting Chief Paul Carlyle. “The goal is to ask for what is needed, as it’s needed. At the point revenue comes in, it would go right out again to fund emergency personnel and reduce response times.”
Voters last approved a Fire Levy of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2014. That levy rate has fallen to $1.35/ $1,000 in 2020. Levy rates fall as property values rise to limit the Fire District to roughly the same amount of revenue per year. Lid lifts help an agency keep up with rising costs and the increase in demand for emergency services.
The lid lift resolution asks voters to return the Fire Levy to the previously approved amount of $1.50/$1,000. The additional cost would be approximately $3.75 per month for the owner of a $300,000 home. More information can be found on the Fire District’s website at www.bcfd4.org.