Voters poised to approve levy lid lift for fire district in Waitsburg
Michelle Alexander listens to volunteer Lila Richey after a full tote of ballots is delivered to the Walla Walla Elections Office. Richey said the full tote consisted of ballots just since noon Tuesday.
Walla Walla County voters in and around Waitsburg appear to be on track to approve a levy lid lift for the area’s fire district.
As of election night Tuesday, Aug. 1, the levy approval lead with 153 votes to 99, or 60.71% to 39.29%.
Morgen Bradshaw-Morgan, Walla Walla County's elections supervisor, said the next batch of results would be announced Friday.
The lid lift would raise the existing levy to $1 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation.
Waitsburg has an all-volunteer fire staff. Volunteer fire captain and fire board member Matt Spring said additional funding would be used to hire a full-time professional firefighter to serve as chief.
“That’s the long-term goal,” Spring said Tuesday night after hearing the results. “I don’t know what that looks like yet. That may take some time. There are a couple of options out there to get us to the point to find the right person.”
Before the election, he said the number of volunteers the district has maintained has steadily fallen as resources have dropped.
The current levy amount is 42 cents per $1,000 of valuation in Walla Walla County. The number was 50 cents when the levy was approved by voters in 2020.
However, because of a state law that limits the amount a government agency can collect compared to how much it collected the prior year, the levy amount falls each year.
State law limits the total amount of tax money the district can collect in a year to a number equal to what it collected in the prior year plus 1%.
It is important to note this is a 1% increase on the total amount of taxes collected by the district — not a 1% increase on the tax rate per taxpayer.
Spring said Tuesday night that he’s pleased voters saw the importance of the fire district.
“I want to thank the community for supporting the fire department and what the fire department is trying to achieve,” he said. “This is going to allow us to give better service to our citizens.”
Spring said even if he wasn’t connected to the fire district, he would still think this was in the community’s best interest.
“I am a community member. I am a taxpayer,” he said. “I have a child in the community as well. I really think this is the best move for our community as a whole. I believe that wholeheartedly. Tax is tough … but this is for the betterment of the community.”
Find voter resources and full coverage of the Nov. 8 election at the UB Election Center.
Jeremy Burnham can be reached at [email protected] or 509-526-8321.
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