PORT TOWNSEND — Voters will decide if the city of Port Townsend will be annexed into the East Jefferson Fire Rescue District during a special election Feb. 12.
Voters living within the city of Port Townsend and in the unincorporated area of East Jefferson Fire Rescue (EJFR) — which is Fire Protection District No. 1 — will receive ballots. It must be approved by 50 percent plus one for the measure to pass.
The annexation of city of Port Townsend into EJFR would equalize an inequity that has existed for 11 years, said Port Townsend Mayor Deborah Stinson.
The action would allow the fire district — which now provides fire and emergency medical services (EMS) to the city by contract — to have jurisdiction over those services.
All tax money collected would go directly to the fire district, leaving the money now used to pay for the services from the city’s general levy available for other city needs.
If approved, using 2018 property values, the cost to the owner of a $300,000 property in the city would be a minimum of $60 annually or a maximum of $237 annually.
In the first instance, 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value would go to the district. In the second — which would depend upon the city using banked capacity — 59 cents would go to the city for other purposes and 20 cents would go to the district.
In both cases, there would be no change to those currently in the fire district.
The EMS rate would remain at $0.50 per $1,000 assessed property value.
“There are two key things to accomplish with annexation,” Stinson said.
“One is to provide more consistent governance for those who receive services. Because we currently get our services through a contract, we don’t have a vote on the level of service we receive. Fire annexation gives city taxpayers a vote through elected, direct representation.
Stinson said it also brings the city into parity with the tax rates.
“Taxes are currently collected in both districts and they are not equal because the valuations in the city and county have not been that close. Now they are closer. Everyone will pay the same rate for the same service. “
Stinson said this annexation frees up the city’s taxing authority so that it can be used in the future.
There is a phase-in process that is contractually obligated with the fire district for three years.
“Property tax is tough and we want to minimize the impact,” she said. “This makes sense. We’re operating with an interlocal agreement and on a contract that should have been for three years. We’ve been doing it for 11 years.
“We’ve been waiting for the valuations in the city and county come close. We’re hoping it will be a wash in 2020.”
County Election Coordinator Betty Johnson said ballots will be mailed Jan. 23 to all qualified registered voters living in Jefferson County in the districts affected. Military and overseas civilian voters ballots will be mailed on Jan. 11.
Postage is required for this election. Ballots must be postmarked on election day. The Auditor’s Office at the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1820 Jefferson St., will accept ballots in person up through election day.
Ballot drop boxes are located in the back parking lot of the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1820 Jefferson St., Port Townsend; next to the book drop in the parking lot of the Jefferson County Library, 620 Cedar Ave, Port Hadlock; and at the Nordland Fire Station, (EJFR Station 12), 6633 Flagler Road, Nordland.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]