Benton County's largest fire district is asking voters to approve raising the property tax rate in November's election to ensure current services are maintained.
If citizens approve the levy, Benton Fire District 1 would collect $1.50 per $1,000 of the assessed value of a home.
The district currently collects $1.38 per $1,000 of assessed value.
That means the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $150 a year, as opposed to the $138 they pay now.
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The levy would be in place for six years and would not exceed the $1.50 rate, officials said. The district last collected $1.50 in 2008.
Citizens will be able to vote on the measure, Proposition No. 1, when ballots go out Oct. 18. It needs a simple majority to pass.
The money would help offset rising costs of equipment, station maintenance and fuel, said Grant Baynes, the district's administrative chief.
Officials may look at spending some of that money to add bulldozers, which are critical to helping fight fires, he said.
"It's not the same as asking for something new and fancy," Baynes said. "We make every dollar work. It's important to know the fire department is there if (citizens) ever need it. It's like life insurance."
Most of the equipment firefighters use has a 10-year shelf life and must be replaced to meet regulations, said Deputy Chief Mike Harris.
"To outfit a firefighter is $3,560 a person," Harris said. "And those prices keep going up."
About 98 percent of the district's annual revenue comes from the property tax levy, officials said. The levy restoration would add approximately $180,000 to the district's 2014 budget.
The district serves 17,400 people and covers 320 square miles in communities such as Finley, Tri-City Heights, El Rancho Reata, Tripple Vista, Badger Canyon and South Kennewick.
It's comprised of 85 firefighters, including 62 volunteers, 11 career firefighters and 12 residential firefighters.
"Getting people to register with us is the hardest thing because we are spread out over so many different communities," Baynes said "We can be easily forgotten sometimes. This is one of those times to consider our needs and ensure we are always there."
While the calls for service have increased yearly, the district still has been able to maintain quick response times and a high level of service, Baynes said. Firefighters were able to help save 52 homes near Clodfelter Road during a large brush fire in June that scorched more than 1,000 acres.
"The community has a high standard they expect from us," Baynes said. "We have done a good job raising that standard."
-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Ty_richardson