by Richard Uhlhorn
We just got an update on how the levy rate works. As I thought we can levy at a rate below $1.10 and the County will only collect what we actually levy.
Chelan Fire and Rescue held a budget hearing on Wednesday, November 3, to discuss and receive feedback on the proposed 2022 and beyond budget.
The Commission can choose to lower the Levy from $1.10 per thousand in valuation and the County will only collect that amount from the property owners instead of what was reported at the November 3 Budget Meeting.
Assistant Chief Brandon Asher thanked everyone who worked to get the Levy Lid Lift passed. “We appreciated all of the hard work you did,” said Asher. “Luckily we are going over the budget we wanted to present.”
Commissioner Oules remarked that perhaps the District wouldn’t need the $1.10 per $1,000 tax based on the new October 20, 2021 Chelan County Assessor’s Preliminary Values for 2022 which came in at $3,506,519.00 and includes property valuations and new construction.
Under the current valuations, the District expects to bring in $3,506,519.00 in tax revenue and another $10,000 in other revenue (with State Mobilizations this is usually more).
The levy passage will allow the District to hire three more career firefighters which would mean that three personnel are at the Station 24/7. They would also bring on three seasonal firefighters instead of two. “That gives us a lot of advantages,” said Asher.
The levy also will allow the District to put $250,000 in it Apparatus Replacement fund. This is important since much of the moving equipment is approaching its end of life cycle. Trucks will be able to be updated with the passage.
Asher also reported a new expense that wasn’t considered in the budget initially. “The roof is going to have to be replaced,” he said. The cost is estimated at $125,000.
Fire Chief Mark Donnell stated that the proposed budget is a very conservative estimate. “With variations in the economy, it can go up or down,” he said. Inflation is a big concern. “We have to account for that.”
Donnell is also apprehensive about the commissioners electing to lower the $1.10 amount to be collected to $1.01. “If we do take less, the county still would collect the $1.10. That money is going to be collected.”
Russ Jones asked if it was possible for the commissioners to lower the amount collected for the District and not have the County collect the $1.10. Donnell replied that, to his knowledge, the County would still collect the $1.10 which would stay in the bank. “What a screwy system,” said Jones. “I don’t disagree,” said Donnell.
It was pointed out that a decision on the amount collected didn’t need to be made at this hearing. Oules suggested taking the excess and putting it into a holding position.
Resident Tim Sullivan told the Commission to take the full $1.10 and use it. “There is a lot you can do with that money,” he said. Ron Simmons, a retired chief and committee member, stated that as a public process the committee thought through a lot of things. “Career firefighters are an expense, but three more people would give the District 24/7 coverage. That’s very important and gives the District a better staffing model.”
The next budget hearing will be on Wednesday, November 10, beginning at 5 p.m. The public is invited to attend in person and/or by ZOOM. Chelan County Assessor Deanna Walters will attend the meeting via ZOOM to explain the how tax collection in the County will work.