Regional Fire Authority (RFA)
Annexation Update: Arlington Fire Department and
North County Regional Fire Authority
The City of Arlington is struggling to fund fire/EMS and other services residents want such as police, roads, parks/trails, planning, and community facilities. Costs outside the City’s control are increasing higher than the revenue available – and fire/EMS is the most expensive.
Fire/EMS costs alone would exceed all property tax revenue that the City collects if it weren’t for an EMS levy and an Ambulance Utility Fee (AUF). That’s why the City is asking voters to annex the Arlington Fire Department to the North County Regional Fire Authority (NCRFA).
Under annexation, property owners would pay a dedicated fire levy and an EMS levy directly to NCRFA. In return, Arlington will reduce its general property tax levy and repeal the City EMS levy and AUF. The AUF was designed as temporary funding for emergency services until a permanent solution – such as annexation – could be found.
If annexation is approved by voters, it would take effect in 2022. Based on the most current data for home values, 54% of City property owners would save money or pay the same for emergency services; 28% would see an increase up to $5 per month/$60 per year; and, 18% would see an increase greater than $5 per month. Without annexation, the City will have to double the AUF and increase its EMS levy to meet the rising cost to provide fire and EMS.
NCRFA is a separate taxing district authorized to provide fire/EMS, serving north Snohomish County and the City of Stanwood, which annexed in 2018. The Arlington Fire Department and NCRFA currently share a medical services officer, fire marshal, community paramedic, training programs, and part-time emergency personnel. Finalizing this partnership through annexation would allow better deployment of personnel, improve training opportunities for firefighters, and provide more emergency resources for City residents.
Annexation will reduce the need for more administrative staff and emergency personnel. Annexation also is more efficient for taxpayers long-term because capital needs such as fire stations, apparatus and equipment would be shared by more people.
NCRFA is governed by a Board of Fire Commissioners elected by voters in its service area. City residents would be eligible to vote on Fire Authority matters such as fire commissioners, levies, and bonds. All Arlington Fire Department staff and emergency personnel would become employees of the Fire Authority, and firefighters have endorsed the proposal. Arlington would still have fire stations in the City, fire prevention programs in schools, and local firefighters participating in community events, including the annual Santa Run Food Drive.
The annexation proposal will be on the February 9, 2021 Special Election ballot for voters in the City of Arlington. Property owners can compare what they would pay with the Annexation Calculator. City Administrator Paul Ellis (360-403-4603, email@example.com) and Fire Chief Dave Kraski (360-403-3607 firstname.lastname@example.org) also are available to answer questions.