Last week Renton residents received notices in the mail from the Renton Regional Fire Authority detailing upcoming property taxes and the fire benefit charge.
Since the notices were mailed out, the Renton RFA, as well as The Reporter, have received a number of calls from residents with questions.
The RFA was formed last year after voters in Renton and those in the King County Fire District 25 approved a measure to form the fire authority.
“Leading up to the election, we told voters that this new agency would do two specific things — increase costs to the tax payers and increase service levels,” Fire Chief Rick Marshall said in an email.
In previous years, cuts to staffing and equipment were made to save costs. Those reductions impacted our service level, Marshall said.
And in 2015, he added, five of Renton’s six fire stations did not meet the targeted response time for emergencies.
“Rapid response times are crucial for better outcomes, both with fires and emergency medical calls,” he said.
In order to help some residents better under the notices they received by mail, Marshall has included some key points.
“The taxes and benefit charges are completely consistent with our public discussion and published information prior to the formation of the fire authority,” Marshall said.
The notice stated that the property tax rate is set at $1 per 1,000 of assessed valuation. That amount is then offset by an equal reduction on the city’s side as provided by state law.
This is not a new charge, Marshall added. The only new charge residents will see on the notice is the fire benefit charge.
The benefit charge is “the portion charged to tax payers that make up the difference between property tax and the fire authorities approved operating budget,” he said in an email.
Following the collection of all necessary funds needed for a new fire station in the north Renton and Kennydale area, Marshall said the city of Renton is “committed to reducing the amount of (property) taxes they collect.”
He added that will then offset some of the added cost that comes from the benefit charge.
The fire benefit charge allows Renton fire stations the opportunity to provide a higher level of service to residents and businesses in the city, Marshall said.
So far, the Renton RFA has added a full time Aid Unit at Fire Station 13 in the Cascade/Benson Hill area.
And they have also been able to make adjustments that allow for more consistent staffing for emergency response during training and community activities.
Marshall said there are at least three other things the RFA is “committed to doing.”
Those include implementing a FD Cares Unit that will be designed to handle non-emergency calls, staffing the new fire station in north Renton/Kennydale and hiring additional Fire Prevention and Public Education staff members who will proactively protect the community and reduce the growing number of calls.
Marshall wanted to stress to Renton residents that “100 percent of the money (collected from property taxes and the benefit charge) goes to fire and emergency services.”
Anyone who still has questions is welcome to visit the RFA’s website at www.rentonrfa.org or call 425-430-7000.