Crews work the hoses during a training drill Tuesday at the fire station on Shoultes Road. (Marysville Fire District)

Crews work the hoses during a training drill Tuesday at the fire station on Shoultes Road. (Marysville Fire District)

It’s time to vote on proposed Marysville fire authority

The Marysville Fire District has old vehicles and older stations. Leaders hope that will change.

MARYSVILLE — The Marysville Fire District needs more firefighters, new vehicles and updated stations, said Tom Maloney, deputy chief and fire marshal.

All of that requires money. Voters will get a say in the matter.

A measure to create a new regional fire authority will appear on special election ballots that were mailed out Thursday. They’re due April 23.

The City Council unanimously approved putting the measure on the ballot in February.

The fire authority would mean a new government agency and a new way to bring in taxes. For more than 25 years, the Marysville Fire District and Fire District 12 have worked together to provide services to about 60 square miles, including the city, some of the Tulalip Indian Reservation, the Seven Lakes area and other parts of unincorporated Snohomish County.

During that time, the population has grown five-fold. In the past eight years, medic calls have increased by 50 percent.

The district hasn’t kept up, Maloney said. A $2.5 million funding gap is expected in 2019, meaning the fire district will use its reserves to keep running — as it has done for several years.

Crews work the hoses during a training drill Tuesday at the fire station on Shoultes Road. (Marysville Fire District)

Crews work the hoses during a training drill Tuesday at the fire station on Shoultes Road. (Marysville Fire District)

The authority would make budgets more predictable from year to year, supporters say. Under the current system, property taxes in the city go toward a general fund, meaning the council has to decide how much money goes to each department. Currently, fire takes up nearly a quarter of the budget.

That’s separate from emergency medical services funding.

The fire authority would consolidate various revenue streams.

All property owners in the new fire authority would pay $1.45 for every $1,000 of assessed value. That adds up to about $435 annually for a $300,000 home.

That’s on top of the city’s general fund property tax. The City Council plans to reduce that rate down from $1.77 to $1.15, said Connie Mennie, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office.

The total net increase would be about 83 cents per $1,000 for Marysville homeowners.

A ballot measure would create a new regional fire authority in Marysville. (Marysville Fire District)

A ballot measure would create a new regional fire authority in Marysville. (Marysville Fire District)

District 12, meanwhile, collects its own property tax from a levy. Those living outside the city pay $1.02 per $1,000 right now.

The extra money could be an important boost, Maloney said. It’s been over a decade since Fire District 12 has asked for a tax increase.

As a result, firefighters have been making do with what they have, Maloney said. They’re using their vehicles longer than recommended — a few aid cars have cleared 300,000 miles — and two fire stations are outdated. That includes the oldest one in the district: Station 65 in the Lake Goodwin area, which was built by volunteers in 1963.

Fire stations aren’t fully staffed, either. Because the majority of calls are for medical reasons — about 80 percent — there often aren’t enough personnel left to staff ladder trucks or rescue vehicles at all hours, Maloney said. Response times can be improved if more firefighters are hired, he said.

Talks about a new system, such as a fire authority, became more serious about two years ago, after discussions with other agencies, Maloney said.

That move has happened in Stanwood and at the new South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue, which merged Fire District 1 and the Lynnwood Fire Department.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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