Registered voters in Aberdeen and Hoquiam are weeks away from deciding whether to approve the formation of a special purpose district that would effectively merge the fire departments in both cities.
Should at least 60 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the Nov. 2 election decide in favor of the district, then that would lead to the formation of the Central Grays Harbor Regional Fire Authority.
The 60 percent threshold is necessary because of the funding mechanism that would be used to create the regional fire authority. The funding mechanism has received little attention since each city council approved putting the issue on the ballot over the summer.
On a rare occasion, a city council member or city employee has been quoted in The Daily World about the financial impact the funding mechanism would have on local property owners.
Phrases, such as “drastic increase to anyone’s budget” and “too much of an increase,” have been used to describe the hike in property tax bills that the funding mechanism would create.
So, it was interesting that inside the most recent city of Aberdeen water and sewer bill mailings was a one-page, tri-folded pamphlet that attempts to explain how the regional fire authority would be funded.
If the idea behind the explanatory pamphlet was to inform potential voters that the increase in property tax bills was going to be significant, then mission accomplished. Because as far as we can tell that appears to be the case.
But the pamphlet also raises some questions, largely a result of some of the language used. Under the heading “How would the CGHRFA be funded?” was the following — “There are many mechanisms available to fund an RFA. The initial funding for the CGHRFA would come from the following:”
The pamphlet goes on to list the numerous levies and fees associated with the funding mechanism, which seem fairly straightforward unless one starts to dwell on the phrase “initial funding.” That suggests, certainly to us, another round of funding will be necessary down the road.
Peruse a little farther down and an entry surfaces under the heading “Fire Benefit Charge,” which as the pamphlet notes are “Charges based on the size and type of improvements in real property. Rate based on a formula contained in Appendix C of the GHCFRA Plan.”
Huhh? What’s the GHCFRA Plan? Well, we figured that was probably a typo, which can happen from time to time. But what about the “Rate based on a formula contained in Appendix C?”
That requires a little light reading via a trip to the city of Aberdeen’s website under the heading “Departments,” and then “Fire Department.” At that point, a click on “Central Grays Harbor Regional Fire Authority Plan July 21, 2021” takes the reader to the plan.
As for Appendix C, it pops up on pages 22-24. That’s when the fun really starts because it won’t take more than one read through to figure out the Fire Benefit Charge is a complicated beast. Heck, after several read-throughs we are still scratching our heads.
If y’all find yourself in the same situation, perhaps a mayor or an elected city council member from Aberdeen or Hoquiam can water it down a bit since they understood the proposal thoroughly enough to place it on the ballot. That suggests they know what it all means, right?