Overview of the Two-Part Funding System
Puget Sound Fire uses a voter-approved two-part funding method authorized under RCW 52.26.180. The two-part system includes property tax and a fire benefit charge.
Part 1: Property Tax Levy
With only a fire tax, the amount available for critical fire and emergency services can fluctuate significantly based on the economy. As property values fall so does available revenue for fire & emergency services. Additionally, taxes are limited to only 1% of the previous years collections which is usually less than cost of inflation.
Traditional property taxes do not consider the hazards and risk associated with a property. For example, a business using hazardous or flammable chemicals pays the same as an office building as long as the two are valued the same. The tax system gives no consideration to the extraordinary risk of a building.
Part 2: Benefit Charge
The Benefit Charge is assessed differently. It applies to all structures on a parcel over 400 square feet or larger, including each level of a building, basements (finished and unfinished), mezzanines, and garages. Factors used to set the charge are based upon the size, type, use and risk of the building.
Under this portion of the two-part funding system, a building owner housing a business that uses combustible gases would have a higher benefit charge than a building owner housing an office. This creates a more equitable relationship between building owners and the fire and life safety services they need to safeguard their occupants and property.
It is also important to note that our area has undergone and continues to be subject to rapid growth. More residents and visitors simply mean more fire & emergency services are required. The Benefit Charge helps ensure a more stable funding system to better meet the demands and risk, of a growing residential and industrial/commercial community.