Community Government Police & Fire

Gig Harbor Fire puts general levy renewal to voters in August

Posted on May 2nd, 2023 By:

The Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One commissioners voted last week to put a renewal of its general levy before voters in August.

Gig Harbor Fire is asking for a renewal of its levy equal to 32 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. For the owner of an average-priced Gig Harbor-area home (worth $865,000), the tax works out to about $276 per year, or $23 per month.

Fire district officials emphasized that this is a renewal of an existing levy, not a new tax. Passage would allow the district to keep pace with a growing population and increased demand for services.

“Everyone at Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One is passionate about supporting our community by providing swift and skilled emergency response,” Joe Urvina, chairman of the fire commission, said in a news release. “The renewal of the general levy to fund operations and equipment is crucial to honoring our commitments to maintain and improve our services.”

Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One firefighters at the scene of a house fire.

‘Lid lift’

The levy asks voters to allow the district to resume collecting the full $1.50 per $1,000 of property tax valuation for fighting fires and other emergency services.

That’s where it gets complicated.

State law limits growth of tax revenue collection to no more than 1% more than the previous year’s take — a lid on tax collection. GHFMO voters approved increasing that to 6% with a “lid lift” approval six years ago.

However, property values grew faster than the 6% growth in revenue collection approved by voters. Therefore, the actual tax rate slipped to just $1.18 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The six-year levy going before voters would boost the overall rate back to $1.50 — hence the 32 cents per $1,000. The 6% cap would continue, so the rate would continue to decline if property values continue to soar.

Third recent GHMFO funding measure

If you feel like you just voted on a Gig Harbor Fire levy, you’re not wrong.

Voters approved a Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One EMS levy in November 2022. Nearly 67 percent voted to support that levy, which funds emergency medical services like paramedics certified in advanced life support.

Before that, fire district voters approved a 20-year, $80 million construction bond in August 2022. The district is using proceeds from the bond to build a fire training center and improve its fire stations.

The general levy “provides critical funding for the district’s day-to-day operations, as well as funds to maintain (its) vehicle fleet, facilities, and safety equipment,” according to GHFMO.

The resolution passed by fire commissioners says levy revenue could pay for “personnel costs, training for such personnel, and related equipment, supplies, vehicles and other capital needs” related to firefighting.

More details

Voters must return ballots for the election by Aug. 1.

If voters approve the levy renewal, it will last six years.

Anyone with questions about the levy can email Chief Dennis Doan at [email protected] or call 253-851-3111.