Issaquah agrees to support new EFR funding model
November 19, 2013
By Sherry Grindeland
After 18 months of chess-like moves among its players, the Eastside Fire & Rescue board may have averted a checkmate by the city of Sammamish. It unanimously approved a new funding model at its Nov. 14 meeting.
The group agreed to shift to an 85-15 split.
That means 85 percent of EFR money would come from taxes on assessed property value and 15 percent from call volume. The change will be effective beginning with the 2015 budget. The change was recommended and presented by an ad hoc committee appointed last month to see if it could move negotiations along.
Currently, funding is based solely upon assessed property values. Because Sammamish has the high property values and the lowest call volumes, the city council there demanded an alternative funding model.
The Issaquah City Council agreed to support the ad hoc committee during its Nov. 11 Committee of the Whole meeting. The consensus was the city’s EFR rate would ultimately go up regardless of the outcome, and so the council chose the one that looked most tenable and beneficial to the partners and Issaquah.
“It looks like significant consideration has been made,” Council President Fred Butler said. “That is the right direction to go.”
In recent months, Sammamish explored establishing its own city fire department. The Sammamish City Council said if EFR’s funding model wasn’t changed it was leaving the consortium.
The threat of Sammamish’s departure challenged the future of the fire agency that is comprised of Issaquah, North Bend, Sammamish, and Fire Districts 10 and 38.
At an Oct. 10 meeting of the EFR board of directors, the board appointed a group to engage in a last-ditch effort to negotiate a funding model everyone could live with. The appointed ad hoc committee came up with the new plan.
Beyond the 85/15 split, funding for two stations will also be changed: Station 81 near Pine Lake in Sammamish, and Station 72 in Issaquah near the transit center. Both stations will be treated as regional assets. The home city will pay for 75 percent of the costs, and the other 25 percent will be split among the partners.
These two stations often act as backups, filling in when firefighters at other stations are on calls outside their areas.
Despite the agreement on funding, the chess game is still in progress.
Sammamish also wants changes to the ILA — the Inter Local Agreement or charter — that governs the consortium.
“The hope is to change the governance model,” EFR Deputy Chief of Operations Greg Tyron said.
Some of the desired changes in the ILA, Tyron said, are just a matter of document housekeeping — they’re things EFR already does but the ILA hasn’t been kept current.
Rather than go through another prolonged negotiation, the EFR board appointed another ad hoc committee to come up with recommended changes. Those could be presented as early as the Dec. 12 EFR board meeting.
Reporter Peter Clark contributed to this story.
Who pays what?
Under the new funding model, each of Eastside Fire & Rescue’s partners will see changes in the amount they pay. A portion of Issaquah’s change is not directly related to the funding formula change, but to that city’s plan to move a fire station.
Fire District 10 $182,244.46 less
Fire District 38 $35,416.11 more
Issaquah $428,533.59 more
North Bend $130,179.77 more
Sammamish $411,883.02 less
Source: city of Sammamish