Mountlake Terrace, Brier voters approving South County Fire annexation

Voters in Mountlake Terrace and Brier were approving by a large margin proposals in their respective cities to annex them to the South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue Regional Fire Authority (South County Fire).

In intial results released at 8 p.m. Tuesday by the Snohomish County elections office, City of Brier voters were passing Proposition 1 with 80% of the vote — 1,187 voters approving and 285 rejecting. City of Mountlake Terrace voters,  meanwhile, were approving their RFA measure, also called Proposition 1, by nearly 92% in early returns — with 2,511 yes votes to 231 opposed.

Both Brier and Mountlake Terrace now contract with South County Fire to provide fire and emergency medical services (EMS). The cities’ current interlocal agreements with the fire authority end Dec. 31, 2023. and South County Fire is not interested in renewing another long-term contract with the cities due to increasing costs.

Officials in both cities said that if voters rejected annexation, they would have to consider other revenue options — such as special taxes, fees and assessments — to cover the increased fire costs.

“We are elated that it passed with such a high percentage,” said Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright. “We want to thank our voters for supporting this annexation. We have a long history with South County Fire. This move will maintain the level and quality of the emergency services our families and businesses require,” she added.

“This was a big deal and we are grateful for the support of our community,” said Brier Mayor Dale Kaemingk. “A lot was hanging in the balance here, not least of which was keeping our city running. Thank you to everyone who took time to learn about the issue and understand the situation.”

Mountlake Terrace and Brier currently contract with South County Fire for fire and EMS. This means property owners pay their city governments for this service through the city’s property tax levy. The cities then pay South County Fire to provide fire and EMS. With annexation, property owners pay South County Fire directly for fire and EMS services starting in 2024.

In Mountlake Terrace, the city currently spends $1,744,166 of its property tax levy on fire and EMS. Under annexation, the city will reduce this tax collection by $1,694,166 in 2024. When voting in January to put the measure before voters, the city council chose to retain $50,000 to help low-income households pay their utility bills. The city will also eliminate the EMS levy.

If annexation were in effect today, the owner of a 2,000-square-foot home with an assessed property value of $616,742 — considered average in Mountlake Terrace — would pay South County Fire approximately $746 per year for 24-hour fire and EMS. With the city’s property tax reduction and the elimination of the city EMS levy, the net increase would be $395 per year or about $33 per month.

In Brier, if annexation was in effect today, the owner of a 2,000-square-foot house with an average assessed value of $950,000 would pay South County Fire $1,045. The city’s EMS levy would be eliminated, making the next increase $915.96 ($76.33 a month).

— By Teresa Wippel


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