West Richland-area residents are being asked to renew a property tax levy to maintain fire service at current levels.
Benton Fire District 4 is asking voters to continue paying $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $150 a year for service.
The tax brings in $1.95 million a year for the district, said Fire Commissioner A.J. Hill.
Residents in the district, which primarily covers West Richland, have paid that rate since 2007, Hill said. An average household in the district pays about $290 annually.
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"We are not asking for any additional money unless the assessed value of your house goes up," Hill said. "All we want to do is maintain that $1.50."
The measure needs a simple majority to pass. Ballots were mailed last week and are due by Aug. 5.
The tax levy expires in six years and would allow for an annual increase of up to 9 percent, but could not exceed the $1.50, officials said.
The property tax is what primarily pays for the 50-person department, a majority of whom are volunteer firefighters, Chief Bill Whealan said. It helps pay for personnel, trucks, equipment and supplies.
State grants account for the rest of the district's annual budget, which totaled about $2.4 million last year, officials said.
The district has cut down average response times from 61/2 minutes to 41/2 minutes despite an increase in calls for service and a growing population, officials said.
The district averages about 1,200 calls for service a year, a majority of which are requests for medical help.
Whealan said its important that the department maintain its response times so citizens with medical issues, such as heart attacks or strokes, can get help quickly.
If the tax doesn't pass, the more than 15,500 residents in the 52-square-mile district will see longer response times and fewer firefighters, officials said.
"We would have to cut back on training and come to the public for every piece of apparatus we need replaced," Hill said.
District officials said they are optimistic that citizens will vote to maintain the tax rate and they haven't been actively campaigning.
"It's up to the citizens to tell us how we are doing and what level of service they would like us to provide," Hill said.
-- Tyler Richardson: 509-582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org: Twitter: @Ty_richardson