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Posted on: March 8, 2023

Voters to Decide Annexation to South County Fire

South County Fire crews: Three people in firefighting gear pose in front of a firetruck.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council passed a resolution asking voters to consider annexing to South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue Regional Fire Authority (South County Fire). The purpose of annexation is to protect the level and quality of fire and emergency medical services residents currently receive. 

Mountlake Terrace currently contracts with South County Fire for fire and EMS. This means property owners pay the City for service as part of its general property tax levy. In turn, the City pays the fire authority. Under annexation, property owners would pay South County Fire directly for fire/EMS through their property taxes.

The contract with South County Fire is expiring and cannot be renewed at the same rate. By law, the fire authority must charge the City the same rate as South County Fire property owners pay. This would almost double the contract cost and significantly reduce funding for other City services such as police, parks and recreation, planning, economic development and public works. 

Mountlake Terrace has looked at all options including starting its own fire department or contracting with another provider. South County Fire is the most cost-effective option for taxpayers to maintain the quality and level of fire and EMS residents currently receive.

The City currently spends $1,744,166 of its general fund property tax collection on fire/EMS. If voters approve annexation, the City will reduce its general fund property tax collection by $1,694,166 for 2024. The City Council has chosen to retain the remaining $50,000 to help low-income families and seniors on fixed incomes pay utility bills. The City also would eliminate its EMS levy.

If annexation were in effect today, the owner of a 2,000-square-foot home with an assessed value of $616,743, considered average in Mountlake Terrace, would pay South County Fire approximately $746 annually for 24-hour fire and EMS. With the City’s general property tax reduction and the elimination of the City EMS levy, the net increase would be $395 annually (about $33 a month).

If voters reject annexation, the City would need to consider increasing revenue through its property tax levy, EMS levy or other non-voted tax increases such as utility taxes, fees and special assessments. Additionally, the City may consider cuts to services including police, parks and recreation, planning, transportation and economic development. 

South County Fire is a regional fire authority serving unincorporated southwest Snohomish County and the Cities of Mill Creek and Lynnwood. It also provides fire and emergency medical service to the Cities of Brier, Edmonds, and Mountlake Terrace under three separate service contracts. Brier and Mountlake Terrace are asking residents to consider annexing to South County Fire on the April Special Election ballot.

The election is on April 25, 2023. More information can be found on the City’s website at www.cityofmlt.com/fireannex.

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