Covington voters elected me with the promise of adding “balance and pragmatism” to the City Council. I cast my first “no” vote against endorsing the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority Proposition 1. My comments reflect my personal opinion and the minority view of the council. I write this letter solely as a Covington resident and not in my capacity on the council.
The RFA was formed to restrain spending by creating economies of scale. Instead, budgets have grown much faster than justified by inflation plus population growth, and other promised savings never materialized.
Crippling tax hikes are making it impossible for average homeowners to live here. Last year, Covington implemented fire impact fees for new construction, with funds going to the RFA. The state legislature also recently passed the largest property tax increase in the state’s history, and two local school tax measures will take effect next year.
Prop. 1 doesn’t just raise your taxes next year, it also accelerates the rate of increase of future taxes by raising the cap on the variable Benefit Charge Fund.
I was a parts & service manager for a fire truck dealership for several years. The rolling leviathans that you see in parades didn’t just roll off a lot. They are built to a “spec” written by the departments and sometimes carefully drafted to guarantee a single pre-selected bidder. The RFA recently purchased two fire engines for about $1.4 million on a single bid.
The National Fire Protection Association code makes these “apparatus” more complex and expensive every year. While structure fires are infrequent due to modern building codes, this district sends them to non-fire emergency calls, and non-emergencies, including to grocery stores. Each “response” becomes a statistic that’s used to compute future budget increases. In fairness, it’s somewhat justified to quickly respond to an emergency call while not in the fire hall. Still, unnecessary mileage shortens equipment life, accelerates wear and tear, and increases fuel and maintenance costs.
Covington also has a different risk potential than Kent with all their older homes and commercial industrial zones, and more non-fire emergency calls. Our needs are far better aligned with Maple Valley which is served by King County Fire Department 43. In the four years remaining on our contract, voters should demand smarter use of equipment and personnel, and starting a dialog with KCFD 43.
Your property taxes will still go up if this measure fails. Prop. 1 raises them even more. Until voters draw the line, we’re giving them a blank check for unrestrained spending and ever higher future tax increases.
Please vote no on Proposition 1.