MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Ballots are due Tuesday for special elections in Brier and Mountlake Terrace, where voters in both cities are deciding whether to join the South County Fire.
If it passes, it will result in higher costs for property owners in both cities, which currently have emergency medical and fire service contracts with South County Fire.
But those contracts weren’t going to be renewed without an increase to cover higher expenses. And forming new city fire departments was the most expensive option.
Leaders in both cities decided asking voters to annex into the district the best financial option. That way, they would pay property taxes directly for EMS and fire services.
Owners of an average 2,000-square-foot home valued around $616,000 in Mountlake Terrace would pay about $395 to be part of the fire district, according to city documents. The Mountlake Terrace City Council voted to reduce its general property tax levy if voters approve annexation to ease the hit to bank accounts.
In Brier, if annexation is approved, the levy would cost owners of a 2,000-square-foot home valued at $950,000 another $916 annually, according to city documents. Property owners would see an overall increase even after the city’s current emergency services levy of $0.21 per $1,000 of assessed valuation is suspended.
No one in either city submitted arguments against annexation for the voter’s pamphlet.
One purported benefit is that residents in Brier or Mountlake Terrace can run for fire commissioner, serving as a voice in delivery of emergency services. Another is that it will help city finances. City and fire district leaders have said annexation would not change service for people who call 911 in a fire or medical emergency.
There were early discussions about transferring or selling the Mountlake Terrace fire station to the district, but those were scrapped and it will remain city property.
About 5,000 registered voters live in Brier and over 13,300 in Mountlake Terrace, according to data from the Washington Secretary of State’s office. As of Monday, 796 ballots from Brier and 1,497 from Mountlake Terrace had been received by the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office, which oversees elections.
Voters can take their ballots to a drop box by 8 p.m. Tuesday at Brier City Hall, 2901 228th St. SW or the Mountlake Terrace Civic Campus, 23300 58th Ave. W. Ballots also can be mailed as long as they are in the mail box before the last pick-up time Tuesday to be postmarked in time.
Not every ballot drop box is open during this special election.
Correction: An earlier version misstated the estimated tax cost for an average homeowner. It is $395 a year.