PROSSER -- Two neighboring fire agencies want voters to merge them into a single agency.
The Prosser Fire Department and Benton County Fire District No. 3 want to form a regional fire authority that would tax property owners both in and outside the city limits the same rate.
The Prosser City Council will discuss the issue at its Tuesday night work session. By July 20, it could vote to put the measure before voters Nov. 2.
The council will convene at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 610 Seventh St.
The two fire agencies now operate under a partnership that shares equipment, an elected leadership body, three paid employees, a volunteer force and a station on Wine Country Road.
"We're just about everything but a regional fire authority the way we're set up," said Doug Merritt, who serves as chief for both bodies.
Under the partnership, the mayor of Prosser appoints three City Council members to the governing board of directors, while the other three are elected from among county residents.
County residents now pay about 61 percent of the partnership's budget, while the city contributes 39 percent. It's a formula based on assessed values, population and average number of fire calls over five years.
Funding would change under the new arrangement, which would require a simple majority vote for passage.
All residents would be taxed on property value. The limit set by state law is $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $150 for a $100,000 home.
Merritt and other proponents have not decided on a rate, he said.
The arrangement would make it easier and more predictable to budget for equipment upgrades and training, Merritt said. Currently, he has to request a share of his money from the City Council every year.