The Battle Ground City Council has unanimously approved its part of a decision to put potential annexation into Clark County Fire District 3 up for a vote during the Feb. 11, 2020, special election.
The council approved an ordinance that would put the measure up for a vote during its Oct. 21 meeting. The approval follows a year of discussion between the city and the fire district as both look for sustainable solutions for fire protection in Battle Ground.
Currently, the city contracts with FD3 to provide fire services under a contract that takes up the majority of the city’s property tax levy. For this year, the contract of $1.35 per $1,000 of assessed value in the city leaves only 2 cents of the $1.37 per $1,000 of the general fund levy. The cost of the contract is anticipated to exceed that levy in 2021.
Previously, city and fire officials noted that Battle Ground is the only municipality in the area that contracts fire services and is not a part of a district. A city announcement of the ballot measure approval stated that the short-term nature of a contract made regional planning as well as planning for capital expenditures such as equipment and stations difficult.
Though if approved the annexation would add a levy from the fire district on top of the city’s existing property tax for Battle Ground residents, the city has decided to cut utility taxes should annexation go through. Water, sewer and stormwater tax rates would be cut by nearly half, according to the city’s announcement.
Additional revenue would allow for funding for a few different city projects, including $750,000 annually for road maintenance and preservation, $550,000 annually for additional police officers to bolster programs and bring back the Battle Ground Police Department’s K9 program, $175,000 annually for increased park maintenance and planning and $25,000 annually for “city beautification,” according to the announcement.
Should voters approve annexation, it would allow Battle Ground residents to seek fire commissioner office for FD3, allowing for citizens to be elected to direct the activities of the fire district, which is currently not the case.
As of press deadline, the current FD3 commissioners were scheduled to have their own hearing on putting the annexation question on the ballot during their evening meeting Monday, Oct. 28. Should the commissioners approve an ordinance, the vote would be both for those in Battle Ground city limits as well as those within FD3’s current boundaries.