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Every one of us wants quality fire and medical emergency response. That's not the issue here. The issue is how to pay for that.

The proposed Fire Benefit Charge would ONLY apply to buildings. While it might be nice to have a "marine response" unit, there is no revenue from the Port of Olympia (no property tax there). There is no revenue from the boat owners or the marina owned by the Port. So, the cost of a marine response unit would fall on homeowners, renters, and business properties.

The proposed Fire Benefit Charge is structured as a reverse Robin Hood tax -- large homes and large apartment buildings pay a lower rate than small homes and small apartment buildings. Based on the presentation to the City Council, a small apartment building would pay about $0.23/square foot, while a large one would pay about $.03/square foot. That means that local investors with a small apartment building get stuck with a big bill, and large corporate apartment complex owners will pay a much lower rate per unit.

There is a better way. First, the fire benefit charge could be structured based on assessed valuation. That's how the state RECOMMENDS these be structured. Or, the fire departments could remain with the Cities, which could ask voters for a Levy Lid Lift to generate more revenue. More revenue for fire, more for police, and more for parks.

Steven does not address the fact that this is the largest proposed increase in property levies (the fire benefit charge is technically not a "tax" but it comes on the property tax bill). People need to understand that this will cost them an additional $20 to $50 per month on their housing payments, whether they are homeowners or renters.

From: Olympia's firefighters' union head comments about the proposed Olympia-Tumwater Regional Fire Authority

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