FIRE BENEFIT CHARGE INFORMATION
On November 4, 2020 the citizens of North Highline Fire District voted to enact a fire benefit charge beginning January 1, 2021.
1. What is a benefit charge?
The 1987 Washington State Legislature passed RCW 52.18.030 authorizing fire districts the option to collect a benefit charge from residential and business property owners if the voters of the district approve it. The benefit charge is not a per call charge and is not based on property value. The benefit charge is a fee which is based on the benefit of having fire protection. This is referred to as a "benefit charge." The county assessor's office sends the county treasurer's office the data on properties, which is then collected by the county treasurer's office along with the property tax bill.
2. How will a benefit charge provide a better source of funding for the fire district?
The benefit charge is a fairer way of funding the district's fire service. Property taxes only take into consideration the value of the property and not the benefits provided by the fire district. These benefits include lower fire insurance costs, which are passed on to the homeowner. By using a benefit charge, costs are more fairly distributed.
3. How much revenue will be available from the benefit charge?
The benefit charge law provides for annual public hearings and must be put to the voters for renewal every ten years and must not exceed 60% of the district's annual operating budget.
4. How much revenue will be available from the benefit charge?
The statute states that the total amount that can be raised by a benefit charge cannot exceed 60% of the operating budget. If a fire district enacts a benefit charge it must reduce its maximum regular property tax levy from $1.50 to $1.00 of assessed valuation.
5. How will a benefit charge help the average homeowner?
The benefit charge provides a continued level of dependable fire service by maintaining well equipped firefighters; and because homeowners have a regular voice in the benefit charge, they will have a greater control over the cost of their fire service.
6. Who establishes the benefit charge and what does it cover?
RCW 52.18.030 states that the Board of Fire Commissioners may fix and impose a benefit charge on personal property and improvements to real property. The benefit charge does not apply to land. The benefit charge covers such property as residential buildings, commercial structures, agricultural buildings, and other structures affixed to the land.
The statute also provides for certain exemptions, which include:
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