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Failure of South King Fire and Rescue's Prop. 1 means cutbacks in service
Proposition One, also known as South King Fire and Rescue's proposed service benefit charge, failed at the Aug. 17 primary election.
Results as of Tuesday night show Prop. 1 receiving 10,891 "no" votes (51.02 percent) and 10,455 "yes" votes (48.98 percent). To pass, the measure needed 60 percent approval, also known as a supermajority.
The service benefit charge was proposed in an effort to stabilize the fire district's revenue and maintain the current level of service. The fire district receives most of its funding through property taxes, which have fallen by double digits during the lagging economy. The proposal included a funding formula that established the fire department's collection of a maximum of $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Then, residential and commercial buildings in the fire district's service area would be charged a fee based on square footage and safety features of the building.
As a result of Prop. 1's failure, the fire district will be forced to cut staff, reduce programs and take vehicles out of service.
"The public has basically told us they want us to cut back," said fire commissioner Bill Gates, who noted the opposition effort against Prop. 1 and a perceived lack of understanding regarding the role of fire service. "There was a tremendous amount of misinformation. If (voters) see it in the voters' pamphlet or newspaper, they think it's the truth."
The proposal will not appear on the November ballot, and at this point, no decision has been made on when or if the proposal will go before voters again, said Deputy Chief Gordon Olson. The issue will be revisited by the board of fire commissioners at a later date.
"We got the message from the voters that we wanted to know," Olson said. "Obviously by the vote margin, they wanted us to cut back. That's where we'll go from here."
In January, the fire district will take one aid car out of service, said Chief Al Church. Aid cars have two emergency medical technicians that respond to calls. If property values and fire department revenues continue to slide, then staff reduction is next, Church said.
"Cutbacks will only go so far before I'm laying off firefighters," he said.
Jerry Galland, a resident of unincorporated King County and candidate for state representative, waged a public effort to oppose Prop. 1. Galland wrote the "vote no" portion in the voters' pamphlet and placed signs in the community that told voters to expect up to a 66 percent increase in taxes.
In a statement to The Mirror, Galland wrote: "It appears that SKFR, and the union Local 2024, was not able to convince 60 percent of the voters to raise their revenues by at least 25 percent and up to 66 percent next year. In a dramatic spending contrast, I find it interesting that a bit of small grass-roots campaigning and a budget of less than $200 was able to upset a well organized and tightly held strategic plan along with the union financed effort costing over $35,000. Let's see how the district deals with communicating the next proposition they put on the ballot."