Voters approve South King Fire tax increase

Early primary election results show voters in the Federal Way and Des Moines area approving South King Fire and Rescue’s property tax levy rate.

The levy lid lift is passing with nearly 58 percent of the vote so far, according to King County Elections. Once the results are certified, the new rate will allow the fire district to collect $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation.

State law allows fire districts to collect up to $1.50 per $1,000 assessed property valuation, but the increase can’t be more than 1 percent from the previous year without voter approval. The measure requires a simple majority for approval, or 50 percent plus one vote.

Currently, SKFR’s tax rate is set at $1.43 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The increase will cost the owner of a $300,000 house – which is the median home price in Federal Way – about $21 more per year.

The lift would last for six years and would be capped at a 6-percent increase from the previous year.

The fire district is funded almost entirely by property tax. The new tax rate would take effect for the 2019 tax year. The fire district won’t know exactly how much money the increase would bring until home values are determined later this year. SKFR reports that if the levy lid lift were in effect right now, it would have added $1.3 million to the district’s 2018 revenue.

The revenue generated by the increase would help cover increasing expenses and allow the fire district to continue programs such as its Community Medical Technicians, which responds to non-emergency 911 calls for help.

This is not the first time SKFR has asked voters for a lid lift. Voters approved lid lift propositions each year from 2000 through 2006, when state law only allowed for a one-year lift approval. In 2007, SKFR voters approved a six-year lid lift, which expired in 2014.

In 2016, voters approved an excess property tax, which collects $2.75 million per year for the department from 2017-2020. The rate is set at 16 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation.

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