Discussions about a possible annexation vote between the City of Battle Ground and Clark County Fire District 3 continue to progress. At a recent Battle Ground City Council study session, members reviewed a list of improvements or cuts to services if an annexation vote should happen in 2020 for City and Fire District residents.
“Like Fire District 3, we must have a plan if a vote for annexation should take place,” said City Manager Erin Erdman. “This was difficult for our council, but they are unified in taking steps to plan if the annexation passes or fails.”
Currently, Battle Ground is the only city in the area that contracts for emergency services and it does so with Fire District 3. A contract is short-term and prevents the Fire District and the City from being able to invest in long-term operational and capital items required by City residents. The City can’t fund these needs on its own without impacting other departments, such as police, streets, parks, and other community programs.
The current contract for fire services costs $1.35 of the City’s property tax levy, which is $1.37 per $1,000 of assessed value. That leaves just 2-cents per $1,000 for other services. Call volumes in the City have increased to the point that the fire services contract would exceed the City’s general property tax levy in 2021.
The City and Fire District have discussed the possibility of annexation for over a year. If annexation passes, the City would reduce its utility tax for water, sewer and stormwater drainage by 10 percent, which equates to about a third of the cost for fire service. This will help offset costs for property owners and renters in the City limits. Remaining revenue would be used for:
Recently, the City and Fire District started exploring what a new Fire/EMS contract would look like if annexation fails. In that case, there would be no utility tax decrease and the City would plan to reduce or cut services in the following areas to maintain a balanced budget. These items include:
The partnership between the City and Fire District also provides benefits to county taxpayers. Fire District 3 property owners could lose back up units to respond to calls, and pay for all administrative costs if the contract is not renewed, which are currently shared between the two jurisdictions.
“We will still have these positions because they are required to serve the emergency service needs of our community,” said Fire Chief Scott Sorenson. “The difference is that it will cost our taxpayers more.”
He continues. “There is no doubt that we are stronger working together. The issue is that the City has emergency service needs that we cannot continue to fund through a contract relationship. If we did, either our taxpayers would be subsidizing property owners in the City, or the City would have to make significant cuts to police, streets, parks, and community programs. Under annexation, everyone pays the same rate and we can plan to meet the demand for quality emergency services as our communities grow.”
If annexation is approved, the fire levy rate is projected to be $1.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value. If City residents approve annexation, it effectively locks in the same rate for fire service that District property owners pay. This eliminates the risk that City property owners could pay more for emergency services than those who live in the unincorporated areas of the Fire District.
City residents also would be able to vote on fire district issues such as commissioners, levies, and bonds, which they currently can’t do. Residents of both the City and Fire District must approve a ballot measure for it to take effect.
More information can be found on our Fire & Emergency Medical Services page. People with additional questions are encouraged to email Chief Scott Sorenson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or City Manager Erin Erdman (email@example.com) personally.