Mercer Island WA City Finance Director Talks Fire Apparatus Funding

Mercer Island (WA) voters will consider in November a property tax levy that would help tear down and rebuild a new firehouse and provide a new rescue truck. City Finance Director Chip Corder discussed the matter.

In 2007, a Fire Apparatus Sinking Fund was created to accumulate resources to fund the replacement of the city’s fire trucks. Corder said the city’s fire trucks were already 23 years old in 2007 and that the trucks all being the same age posed a higher risk for them to break down.

The city desired instituting a staggered replacement cycle for the city’s fire trucks, so that they wouldn’t all be the same age.

“Initial one-time funding for the sinking fund came from the General Fund ($277K) and the Equipment Rental Fund ($179K).  The ongoing funding sources approved by Council, which took effect in 2008, consisted of:  1) 1.65% of the property tax levy (which amounted to $147K in 2008), and 2) surplus investment interest,” said Corder.

The recession has impacted the city’s ability to help fund this project. “The budget was extremely tight due to the recession, and the sinking fund wasn’t projected to go negative until 2015,” said Corder.

He said that he believes that the city has gone to the voters 3 times since 1998:  1) Nov 1998 Community Center construction bonds, which failed;  2) Nov 2003 Luther Burbank Park levy lid lift (6 year levy), which was approved; and 3) Nov 2008 Parks M&O levy lid lift (15 year levy), which was approved, and Nov 2008 Parks bond measure (20 year levy), which failed.

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