Regional Fire Authority committee updates public: New Fire Benefit Charge option to lower its cost


CORRECTION:  November 20, 2022 -- A previous version of this story misstated the current version of the  Fire Benefit Charge under consideration by the committee.  

The Regional Fire Authority (RFA) planning committee has updated the public on the new development regarding the Fire Benefit Charge (FBC) calculation, which would lower the fee for property owners and businesses.

At the RFA public hearing held Monday, November 14, consultant Karen Reed said almost 30 million square footage had been added to the multifamily and commercial classifications. The total square footage increases from 78.6 million to 104.3 million square feet.

With the additional total square footage, Reed said the weighting for nearly all classifications can be reduced and still collect the estimated $10.5 million FBC collections needed in 2024.

Reed said they engaged in an independent review of the FBC calculations in the two weeks. They found that initial FBC estimates did not capture the total square footage on multi-building sites, particularly for apartment and commercial classifications.

"Neil's [Blindheim, consultant] formula was not picking up lower tabs on parcels of property with multiple buildings. It would pick up one of the buildings but would not pick up the other ones that were also in the county's data file but were not showing up in his calculations." Reed explained.

"The good news is that there's a lot more square footage that's going to share the cost," said Reed, adding that the FBC total cost remains at $10.5 million. She told everybody's estimated FBC goes down due to the new data.

Revisions to FBC formula: Option 5

In past meetings, committee members explored different FBC formulas. They approved Option 3B, which uses slightly lower weight for the small residential and commercial sector; eliminate the fee for mobile homes; divide residential into three classes, weights increasing with square footage; shift cost from the residential sector to the commercial sector.

Reed said the staff team looked at the new total square footage data and figured out the best way to reallocate the costs to accommodate the committee's concerns of wanting smaller households to pay less than bigger houses. The committee wanted the smaller commercial properties to get a break as well.

Reed introduced the FBC formula option 5, in which:

  • Reduced weights in all classifications compared to option 3B, except for multifamily units remaining at 1.5 and mobile homes still at zero.
  • 6% shift to commercial can be eliminated.
  • The weight remains at 1.5 for multifamily. FBCs in this classification drop for parcels with unchanged square footage due to other reductions (lower cost per gallon).

"We have seen a large increase in apartment and commercial square footage. Many parcels overall increase very slightly," the consultant noted.

She added that option 5 is a "no shift" model." Each sector pays a share collectively of the FBC roughly equivalent to their square footage share of the total square footage in Olympia and Tumwater.

Reed showed tables reflecting the comparative FBC cost in different classifications under option 3B and option 5.

The modified FBC formula includes the square root factor: 

FBC = Fire Flow x Building Category Factor (CF) x Cost per Gallon Factor (CPG) x Balancing Factor x Sprinkler Discount x Exemption Factors




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  • JulesJames

    The consultants found an extra 27 million square feet to tax????? They lost the equivalent of 18 Columbia Towers in Thurston County? When will a public official stand up to call the FBC the snake oil scheme that it is?

    Tuesday, November 15, 2022 Report this

  • Southsoundguy

    Again, this is talking as if the RFA is a forgone conclusion when it still can’t demonstrate how it’s meeting any real demand or how it will be more efficient than the current setup. It’s a total scam.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2022 Report this