The City of Mountlake Terrace is sponsoring a virtual meeting this week to help community members learn more about the annexation to South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue Regional Fire Authority (South County Fire) that will be on the April 25, 2023, special election ballot. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, via Zoom (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88582280538)
The city held an in-person meeting last week at Mountlake Terrace City Hall.
According to the city, the purpose of the 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 this service through the City’s property tax levy. The city then pays South County Fire to provide fire and EMS. If voters approve annexation, property owners would pay South County Fire directly for fire and EMS services starting in 2024.
The contract with South County Fire is expiring and cannot be renewed at the same rate. By law, South County Fire must charge the city the same rate that South County Fire property owners pay. This would almost double the contract cost and significantly reduce funding for city services such as police, parks and recreation, planning, and public works.
Mountlake Terrace has looked at all options, including starting its own fire department or contracting with another provider. The city decided that 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 property tax levy on fire and EMS. If voters approve 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.
According to a city press release, if voters reject annexation, the city will 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 and transportation.
Voters should have received their ballots by April 7. To count, ballots must be postmarked by April 25, 2023, or placed in a ballot box by 8 p.m. Election Day. The Mountlake Terrace ballot box is available at the Civic Campus, 23204 58th Ave. W.
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.
Find more information at www.cityofmlt.com/fireannex.
The City of Brier is hosting the second of two information meetings for Brier voters during its Tuesday, April 11 city council meeting.
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