Strike two for fire levy

Maple Valley Fire and Life Safety officials are coming to grips with a second rejection of the district’s levy.

Voters spoke a second time Nov. 4, with 52 percent of the ballots cast against Proposition 1, disappointing fire district officials who hoped that high voter turnout for the general election would create different results than the low turnout in the August primary election. In the latter, the no vote also was 52 percent.

For last week’s election, turnout was 72 percent, with 16,607 of the district’s 22,909 registered voters participating. That about doubled the turnout in August.

The district serves Maple Valley and part of Covington.

Fire chief Tim Lemon had been preparing for the past two months for either potential outcome of the second try for Proposition 1, a levy lid-lift that would have maxed out the fire district’s taxing ability. He asked his staff to prepare budgets based on if the levy passed or failed.

Lemon said the department will have to make changes for next year.

“I am anticipating some cutbacks in programs and projects, along with not filling authorized vacant positions,” Lemon said.

He said the district’s commissioners “are disappointed with the results” of the election “but feel they have clear direction from the public and have directed (the district staff) to review a number of programs.”

A budget has been developed based upon a property tax rate of $1.27 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for 2009. The budget “is still a work in progress, but will maintain the core services” of fire protection and emergency medical treatment, Lemon said.

Of three ballot measures last week for fire districts in King County, Maple Valley’s was the only one that failed. Voters approved bonds for new or renovated fire stations and equipment for District 44/Mountain View Fire and Rescue, whose service area includes Black Diamond, and District 2/Burien-Normandy Park Fire Department.

Staff writer Kris Hill contributed to this report.