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Early election results show strong support for all measures except Bonney Lake park district

Post by Kari Plog / The News Tribune on April 23, 2013 at 9:06 pm with No Comments »
April 23, 2013 10:19 pm

BONNEY LAKE

Early results showed voters apparently rejected creation of a park district in Bonney Lake, which would have granted the city authority to tax residents to maintain parks and recreation facilities.

The measure was one of three ballot measures in Tuesday’s special election, all of which were issues concentrated in East Pierce County.

Approval of the Bonney Lake Metropolitan Park District would have created a supplemental tax and established a dedicated funding source for the management, improvement and maintenance of parks, according to the ballot’s explanatory statement.

Statutory tax limits and the district’s status as a junior taxing authority would have limited the rate to around 44 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Passage would have granted ownership and management of some or all of the city’s parks to the district.

The strong rejection comes after a political action committee against the measure, Families for a Responsible Bonney Lake, announced a complaint against the city that the group plans to file with the Washington State Auditor and the Public Disclosure Commission.

The group accused the city of ethical and financial violations for allegedly using public resources to influence voters ahead of Tuesday’s election, according to a letter drafted by the group.

Shawnta Mulligan, treasurer for FFARBL, said the PAC planned to present its complaint to the city attorney at Tuesday night’s Bonney Lake City Council meeting.

ORTING

Orting voters in early returns appeared to be approving a tax measure that would generate $825,000 annually through 2017.

Orting Valley Fire & Rescue submitted the levy for the special election to revive its operating budget, which has been reduced by 30 percent since 2009.

Early results showed the levy was 65 votes short of the 1,461 yes votes needed for validation of the measure. Orting Fire Chief Zane Gibson said Tuesday night that he hopes mail-in votes included in later counts will make up for that shortage.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Gibson said.

Approval of the levy would authorize the fire district to collect $825,000 each year, for a total of about $3.3 million through 2017. The tax rate each year would range between 89 to 92 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value over the four-year period.

As property values fluctuate, the tax rate would be adjusted to meet the annual $825,000 revenue amount set by the fire commissioners. Gibson said this is a different approach compared to other fire district measures, which generally establish a set tax rate.

Gibson said passage of the new tax would allow the district to maintain response times of four to six minutes and sustain its ambulance services at no cost to residents. Without it, the district would likely have to contract with private ambulances, based out of Federal Way or Tacoma, he said.

MILTON

Voters in Milton and the East Pierce fire district appeared to strongly support a measure that would formalize an earlier partnership and complete the annexation process.

East Pierce Fire & Rescue would adjust its boundaries to include the City of Milton, taking complete responsibility for emergency medical services within city limits on both sides of the Pierce-King county line.

East Pierce Fire Chief Jerry Thorson said he believes the early results show that the residents are happy with the services provided thus far.

“The public in both the district and the city believed very strongly that our firefighters are doing a good job serving them and they want to continue with that,” Thorson said. “We appreciate the voters support and we will work very hard to provide the service that they expect.”

Passage would solidify a partnership that Milton and the district started in January 2011, when the fire district started providing fire and paramedic services to the city.

Annexation approval would not impact rates or levels of service in areas already inside the fire district. Milton residents and those living in the rest of the district would continue to pay $2 per $1,000 in assessed property value. The only cost increase to Milton residents is contributing to the final year of a maintenance and operation levy previously approved in the fire district. Starting in 2014, Milton residents would pay the same 43 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value that East Pierce residents pay now.

East Pierce Fire & Rescue has tripled in size since it formed in 2000. It covers about 152 square miles with an annual operating budget of about $22 million.

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682
kari.plog@thenewstribune.com
@KariPlog

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