Mountlake Terrace eyes April ballot for fire, EMS annexation vote

The City Council could vote next week to put the annexation measure on the special election April 25.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Voters in Mountlake Terrace could be asked this April if they want to annex into South County Fire.

City and South County Fire leaders are pursuing the April 25 special election for Mountlake Terrace’s 13,298 registered voters, according to state Secretary of State data.

The service provider would stay the same for people in need of emergency medical help or fire response in the city, which contracts with South County Fire for those duties.

The potential cost for taxpayers isn’t yet known, as the City Council determines what to do with its tax rates.

South County Fire has emergency medical service and fire levies. It also has a benefit charge based on size and whether a building is commercial or residential. Those amount to an equivalent total levy of $1.22 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Currently, Mountlake Terrace estimates paying $3.7 million this year for the service charge. That money comes out of the general fund, which also covers parks, police and other city departments and programs. Property and sales taxes account for the bulk of the city’s general fund revenue.

The contract with South County Fire expires at the end of December 2024,, and the regional fire authority’s leadership isn’t interested in another long-term contract.

Renegotiating a new deal likely would dramatically increase the cost to the city, at least 80%, assistant city manager Stephen Clifton told the council this week. Those higher costs would affect its budget and could prompt “major reductions” in city programs, according to his presentation.

If a simple majority approves the annexation, it would take effect Aug. 1.

One of the only assets that would transfer is Fire Station 19, which is Mountlake Terrace owns and is on city property. Terms of the annexation currently include South County Fire having exclusive use of parts of the building, except for the ground floor, which would remain the city’s.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council is expected to vote on five documents, including to put annexation on the April ballot, at its meeting Thursday, Feb. 16.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037;; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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