It has been brought to my attention that the increase in property assessments for our community are averaging around 30%! When I proposed the Levy Lid Lift of a $1.50 per $1,000, I had no idea that the assessments would be that high. Last year they averaged 12%. Please believe me, I would not have asked for this amount in good conscience had I known. We still need to boost our budget, but the community comes first.
I asked the Spokane County Election Board to take this lid lift off of the ballot, but the ballot has already been sent out.
I want to convey to the community that I understand and share the angst and frustration in these uncertain times, and fully understand the reluctance of the community to have their taxes raised. I know there are those that want to support the fire department and I want to reassure them that we are doing what we can to tighten our spending without jeopardizing our services. So, I want to convey that not passing the Levy Lid Lift is okay. There have been some emotional responses from some community members when we announced a proposed Levy Lid Lift. I understand that the times we are living in are stressful and uncertain, causing some fear and anxiety. It also has shown us just how much more work we at NLFR need to accomplish in educating our community; we will strive to do this better.
Newman Lake Fire has a service delivery model that is not sustainable. It has been on this trajectory for many years and will continue to be our challenge until changed/modified/improved. This being said, we will not be going out of business anytime soon. So, if we delay the Levy Lid Lift, we will be okay - but our plan of improving firefighter coverage/response capabilities will be impaired and possibly delayed.
I would like to share with you some information about the 2023 tax assessment, an estimate, and help people understand how we (you and NLFR) will be affected by this 30% increase in property values.
Every year, regardless of property valuations, NLFR will receive a nominal increase in our fire operation budget from the county, by a maximum of around 2%. Only 2%. Our fire operation budget in 2022 is $526,000, up from $514,000 in 2021. Every year, as the assessed property value increases, and the tax base increases, the tax rate percentage that a homeowner is taxed for the fire department goes down because it takes less of a percentage of tax to support a 2% increase in the fire department budget. As an example:
If you had a home valued at $500K in 2020 you were taxed at $1.12 per $1,000 and you would have paid about $560 for that year. In 2021 the property valuation went up by 12% making your property assessment $560K. Because property assessments went up you were taxed at a $1.02 per $1,000, increasing your taxes by only $11 to $571 for that year. In 2023, with the 30% increase in property assessment, the tax rate drops to $0.77 per $1,000 bringing your yearly tax down to $560 for the year. With the little bit of new construction in the community, your taxes for NLFR will stay the same or decrease in 2023, despite the 30% increase in property assessment.
Again, this is good for the property owner and residents. And I support that! It still means that NLFR is getting around a 2% increase each year due to the levy cap, but our costs are still going up with inflation. We can manage it this year and most likely next year.
I want to thank everybody in the Newman Lake Community for their support over the years. I also appreciate the trust afforded NLFR to be your EMS, Fire and Life Safety provider. We want the best for all of you.