Quilcene commissioners strike fire levy question from ballot

QUILCENE — Quilcene Fire Department commissioners have decided to wait to present voters with a request for a levy lid hike.

After approving a measure July 29 asking for voter approval for a 68 percent increase in property taxes on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, the commissioners rescinded their approval Monday after deciding to assemble more information before requesting a tax increase.

“We realized this was not the right time to put the question on the ballot and raise the taxes,” said Herb Beck, board chairman.

“Our priority right now is to do what needs to be done to get excess fire district property subdivided, get the utilities moved — including septic — and get those properties sold.”

The fire district purchased two homes near the fire station at 70 Herbert St. in 2011 for $330,000, and that property could be sold to benefit the district, according to Chief Larry Karp.

Try again next year

The district will form a committee to discuss next steps and could attempt another levy in November 2014, Karp said.

“I agree with the board’s decision, but we must all realize that this ballot measure needs to be revisited in 2014 because we will have burned through our entire reserves by 2015,” said Karp, citing the loss of annual timber revenues, aging equipment and rise in cost of supplies and services.

“There’s no denying the need for the extra funds,” Karp said.

Beck was one of two commissioners, along with Debbie Randall, who originally approved the levy lid lift question, while Gary Phillips opposed it.

Randall and Beck reversed their votes Monday and passed a resolution rescinding the levy, which was submitted to the Jefferson County Auditor on Tuesday.

The action was taken in time to remove the measure from the Nov. 5 ballot, and the department will not be charged for the action, according to Jefferson County elections coordinator Karen Cartmel.

The resolution was intended to raise the levy rate from 75 cents per $1,000 of value to $1.25, which would have increased the property tax on a $200,000 home by $100 per year.

After the original question was approved, some residents said they wanted to support the levy and the district but needed an explanation of where the money would go before approving the lift.

More explanation

The request for a better explanation was a major factor in rescinding the measure, according to Karp.

“A big reason was that we wanted to show people that the department was listening,” he said.

“We were hearing that it didn’t matter who was in the commissioners’ chairs.

“They are going to just do what they want.”

Beck is the only one of the three commissioners to have been elected. Randall and Phillips were appointed after voters recalled Commissioners Dave Ward and Mike Whittaker in November 2012.

“I appreciate the commissioners’ action on this,” said Kit Kittredge of Quilcene, an emergency medical technician and an activist with Code Pink who was one of those asking for more information.

“We all want the fire department to be successful, and this is a good way to go.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

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