For years, the Northshore Fire District Commission has explored a merger with regional fire districts with the goal of improving service and reducing costs. As representatives of our fire district commissions and first responders, we are clear that the proposed merger, Prop. 1 on the April 27 ballot, is not that.
Our greatest concern is that the proposed cost savings are unrealistic and unsustainable. The Fire District has provided limited financial information to the public, which makes it difficult to make an informed decision.
The Kenmore City Council agreed. When they voted unanimously to oppose Prop. 1, Councilmember Debra Srebnik stated: “We have been asking for transparent information on the financial and service implications of this for over a year and have not received them.”
Based on the information available, a surplus in the existing general fund is being used to buy down expenditures in the 2021 budget. For that reason, the funding model will cause the combined Fire District budget to fall well below the target balance of 35% as early as 2023.
Prop. 1 also reduces the take home pay of our local firefighters by as much as 12%. It is concerning to ask the men and women who serve our community to take a pay cut at any time, but unacceptable during a pandemic.
In addition, the merger as proposed does not increase or improve service for our community. If Prop. 1 passes, it could potentially reduce service, requiring local firefighters to relocate from Kenmore and Lake Forest Park to Woodinville to meet the staffing needs in that area.
For these reasons, Kenmore City Councilmembers have joined current and former Fire District Commissioners of Northshore and Woodinville, as well as the firefighter unions that represent Northshore, Woodinville, Bothell and Shoreline in opposing Prop. 1.
The Lake Forest Park City Council has not taken a position on Prop. 1, and a public hearing is scheduled for April 8th during its regular meeting.
The rising concerns even caused Northshore Fire District Commissioners, who placed the measure on the ballot, to oppose Prop. 1 stating that the “Northshore Board of Commissioners cease any and all efforts in moving forward with the merger/consolidation with Woodinville Fire and Rescue until such a time that they are working with the support and cooperation of the Northshore Firefighters Local 2459.”
Unfortunately, that vote came too late. Prop. 1 had already been transmitted to the county and placed on the ballot. Now it is up to the voters of Lake Forest Park and Kenmore to protect our community’s health, safety, and first responders.
Vote no on Prop. 1 and be sure to return your ballot by April 27.
Lieutenant Jeremiah Ingersoll, Northshore Firefighters and IAFF 2459 President
Northshore Fire District Commissioner Rick Verlinda
Woodinville Fire District Commissioner Tim Osgood