Fire services

Update:

The Marysville City Council on Aug. 3 moved toward pursuing a new fire service model, a Regional Fire Authority. The Council unanimously approved establishing a planning committee with the City of Arlington to explore the formation of an RFA and inviting Fire District 12 to participate as well. 


Background:

On Aug. 3, the Marysville City Council is scheduled to vote on the future direction for fire services. Over the past three years, the Council established these priorities for future fire operations: 

  • Provide high quality level of service and establish actual standards for that level of service,
  • Increase transparency,
  • Have a governance model based on population and/or assessed valuation within the service boundary,
  • Improve strategic planning for personnel, service and facility needs,
  • Understand revenues sources and options to provide for current and future fire operation needs,
  • Provide greater financial sustainability for future operations,
  • Manage financial impact and total cost to Marysville citizens, and
  • Specify asset ownership.

What is the current situation?

The Marysville Fire District is a contract entity created through an interlocal agreement between the City of Marysville and Snohomish County Fire District 12 in January 1992. 

MFD is governed by a six-member Board of Directors: the three Fire District 12 Commissioners and three Marysville City Councilmembers. 

MFD covers about 56 square miles with a 2016 population of about 79,310; about 82% of those people live in the city’s 21 square miles, while 18% live in District 12’s 35 square miles of unincorporated areas. 

MFD employs 101 full-time personnel that staff five fire stations. Four of those stations are located within the city limits. 

The MFD’s 2016 budget reflects $17.9 million in expenditures and $15 million in revenues; fund balance is being used to cover the $2.9 million gap. 

How did we get here?

In 2013 the MFD identified future funding issues with the current structure and asked for consideration of a Regional Fire Authority (RFA).
 
In 2014 the City commissioned a study regarding options for providing fire and emergency medical (EMS) services. 

In 2015 the City and Fire District 12 began negotiating the creation of an RFA; when those negotiations reached a stalemate in July 2015, the City began further analysis of fire service options available to the City. 
  

Why is the City considering this change?

Growth


When the MFD was formed in 24 years ago, the City served 13,030 residents within its 5.4-square-miles city limits. Today the City limits are nearly three times larger (21 square miles) and population is more than five times larger (79,310 residents). 

Budgetary concerns

Current MFD expenses are greater than revenues; the 2016 budget reflects a $2.9 million gap. The MFD has a very large reserve fund amassed over several years (about $13 million in 2014) to offset the difference. The reserve is sufficient to meet funding gaps in the relative near term. 

The MFD financial model is unsustainable over time, however, and does not align with the City’s financial priorities and practices.
The City seeks increased clarity and transparency in the financial modeling and budget process. 

Governance structure

Since the MFD was formed in 1992, it has greatly changed due to general population growth and City annexations in particular. Today 80% of residents served by the MFD live within city limits, but City representation on the MFD Board of Directors is 50%. 

What alternatives are being considered? What are their pros and cons?

The City studied four alternatives for fire service: Modify Current Contract, Fire District Annexation, City Fire Department, and Regional Fire Authority (RFA). Extensive analysis found the most viable options to be establishing a City Fire Department or creating an RFA. 

Both of these options can meet the Council’s priorities for fire service. Both would entail a taxpayer cost to support financially sustainable fire service operations. Both would require public votes to approve assumed levies and/or bonds.

When will the City Council make a decision?

The City Council intends to vote on the future direction for fire service at its Aug. 3 Council meeting. That meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. Public comment will be accepted under the audience participation portion of the meeting, or you can send a letter in advance to Marysville City Council, Marysville City Hall, 1049 State Ave., Marysville WA 98270. 

Once a decision is made, what is the timing for implementation?

Making a change of any kind will require a number of decisions and negotiations with other agencies and entities. Depending on the service model selected and the complexity of decisions needed to implement it, the new fire service structure could be in effect as early as 2017. 
 


View Fire and EMS Organization Alternatives report