Panel supports Lacey Fire District annexation

LACEY - A proposal to annex the city into Lacey Fire District No. 3 took another step to voters Friday morning.

Fire commissioners unanimously approved a resolution during a special meeting, concurring with the city’s intent to annex into the fire district.

The City Council approved an ordinance expressing its intent with a unanimous vote Thursday evening.

Two things now must happen. Thurston County commissioners must schedule the special election, which would occur April 27. And the Thurston County Boundary Review Board must approve the proposed annexation, which would automatically occur 45 days after it receives the formal notice unless a request for review is filed.

Both city and district voters must approve the annexation with a simple majority. If the annexation is passed, property taxes for the expanded district wouldn’t be collected until 2011. The city will pay the district more than $4.8 million in 2010, the final year of the contract.

The city and the district also have approved an agreement detailing the terms of the annexation, if approved.

Under the agreement, the city would transfer to the district its ownership interest in the three fire stations, a vehicle repair shop, a ladder truck and two fire engines paid for with nearly $12 million in bonds that city and district voters approved in 2000.

A bill will be introduced when the Legislature convenes next month to prevent what City Manager Greg Cuoio described as an “inequitable outcome” for city voters stemming from an annexation. If the annexation passes, city voters paying the debt service on their share of the bonds would also assume a share of the district’s outstanding bonds without a change to state law.

With passage of the annexation, city residents are projected to pay an additional 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, starting in 2011; $1.07 per $1,000 of assessed value compared to a “virtual” rate of 95 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which is calculated based on a projected contribution by the city of $4.77 million during that year.

The owner of a $250,000 home would pay $30 more a year. City taxpayers would pay a separate tax levy for the district under annexation but would see a reduction in the city’s tax levy that pays for basic services because it no longer would be used to pay for a service contr- act.

If annexation passes, the city would appoint two advisory members to Lacey’s Board of Fire Commissioners until voters decide on a proposal to increase the number of commissioners either during the primarily or general elections next year. The advisory members would have no voting power but will be given all meeting notices and materials and “shall have an opportunity to be heard on each issue coming before the Commissioners,” according to a copy of the agreement.

If annexation fails, the agreement calls for an extension of the existing service contract through July 31, 2011, so the city can explore and decide on another alternative.

Christian Hill: 360-754-5427