Lynnwood’s property tax promise to homeowners sort of true

They were told consolidation of fire departments would save, but new rates likely will be more.

LYNNWOOD — The city of Lynnwood appears to be keeping its promise about property taxes, at least to some degree.

Voters were told that a recent move to consolidate the fire department would save money. The city no longer is directly providing firefighting and emergency medical services. That frees up a significant portion of general fund spending — nearly $13 million for next year alone.

City Council members passed a resolution in May, saying their intent was to reduce taxes to offset the difference.

“That’s exactly what we’re doing,” finance director Sonja Springer said in an interview.

A vote to make that happen is scheduled for Nov. 27. A public hearing was held Monday.

“We’re really looking forward to doing this, and this has been part of the talks all along,” Councilwoman Shannon Sessions said at the meeting.

However, the measure doesn’t automatically mean cheaper tax bills. The combined rates of the city and the new fire agency likely will surpass the current amount paid by homeowners. And that doesn’t include taxes for school funding and Sound Transit.

Several residents made those points at the recent meeting.

Property owners within city limits now are served and taxed by South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue, a regional fire authority. Stand-alone fire departments in Snohomish County generally draw a fire levy and an EMS levy.

The public in August voted to approve a fire levy for the new agency. The rate was $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. That is the maximum allowed by law. The fire commissioners are expected to vote Tuesday on final numbers for 2018.

The old Fire District 1 had the same rate, along with 47 cents per $1,000 for EMS.

The district and the city hand over their EMS funds to the fire authority until it creates its own.

Lynnwood’s proposed EMS rate also is lower for 2018. It would be 37 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, compared to 40.5 cents now.

The city’s property tax levy this year was $1.73 per $1,000. The budget proposal calls for a 2018 rate of 57 cents. That means the city would bill the owner of a $300,000 home $171, instead of $519. The EMS drop is less significant.

After the fire levy, the average homeowner in Lynnwood still is facing an overall increase of about $150, according to Springer’s presentation at the public hearing.

“It’s a big hit at this first year, but I would expect in future years it will be a very minimal increase,” she said.

Lynnwood receives only about 20 percent of the property tax collected within city limits. It draws more revenue from sales tax.

The budget proposal sets the 2018 general fund at $56.3 million.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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