Funding under microscope | Issaquah Council examines Eastside Fire’s funding model

There seems to be a consensus among the partners in Eastside Fire and Rescue that the funding model needs to be changed, but no one is really sure how to do it.

There seems to be a consensus among the partners in Eastside Fire and Rescue that the funding model needs to be changed, but no one is really sure how to do it.

At Monday’s Issaquah City Council meeting, EFR Deputy Chief, Greg Tyron, said decreasing property values in Districts 10 and 38 have revealed flaws in the funding model.

Station 83, also known as the Klahanie Station, runs most of the calls, but roughly 50 percent of those calls go to Issaquah — yet Issaquah pays only six percent of the cost for that station, Tyron said.

Sammamish, which owns station 83, has been unhappy with the funding model for sometime, because it is the only one of the partners paying into EFR based on assessed values, thereby getting the short end of the stick.

In a meeting last week, representatives from Fire District 10, one of EFR’s partners, said they were open and interested in a funding model that may include a 75/25 split in the partnership, with funding coming from 75 percent of assessed property value and 25 percent on call volume.

Council member Paul Winterstein said the 75/25 formula may be the perfect solution, but he doesn’t know. Council member Eileen Barber echoed his thoughts that she didn’t want to rush a decision — that the council needs to take its time and look at what they are doing.

Tyron said District 10 made the resolution for the 75/25 concept to take some of the pressure off of Issaquah.

“The city of Issaquah realizes the funding model has challenges for them, too,” Tyron said. “But they don’t want to make a knee-jerk decision.”

Councilman Fred Butler, who is on the EFR board of directors, as is Barber, said he believes Sammamish has drawn a line in the sand, and by not acting to adopt a resolution it would send the wrong message to Sammamish, which is close to leaving the partnership.

Nonetheless, the council tabled the motion and agreed to continue the discussion at the Nov. 12 meeting of the committee of the whole.

The partnership agreement between members of EFR expires at the end of 2014. Any agency that wants to leave must give notice by the end of this year.

“There’s a lot of moving pieces here,” Tyron said. “Everyone is saving money now with this partnership rather than owning their own fire department.”

North Bend, one of the EFR partners, met Tuesday night and made two separate motions. One was to add a one year extension to the inter-local agreement, and to support the EFR board proposal to extend the partnership for one year, to provide additional time for partners to commit to EFR. This would push the expiration of the inter-local agreement to December 31, 2015. District 10 is in favor of extending the inter-local agreement to the end of 2015.

The North Bend council also made a motion to change the funding formula to the 75/25 plan, or another formula with similar cost implications; provided, that calls for service outside any partners’ jurisdiction would not be included in the formula and calls would be weighted 3 to 1 with emergency calls being weighted as “1” and fire suppression calls being weighted as “3”.

North Bend appointed council member Alan Gothelf to be in an ad-hoc committee to discuss the ILA funding model.

Board members for district 38 were meeting after the Reporter’s deadline.