By Andy Valencia
Years ago, I hired a contractor to rebuild a structure for me. He named a price, I got out the checkbook and wrote him a check. Several days later I mentioned this to a friend who worked in small business law. He shook his head, laughed at me, and said I’d told the contractor two things: (1) I was afraid to negotiate, and (2) he hadn’t taken enough money from me yet.
With this homespun philosophy of conducting business, let us take a look at what kind of money Vashon Island Fire and Rescue – VIFR – has been taking in over the last decade. For many of us, our financial stresses have increased since we last voted for a big tax increase. How has it been for them, and what are they proposing in their new levy?
(The values shown here were obtained from VIFR budgets, except 2021, which is from the approved budget, and 2022, which is from a proposed budget on the vifr.org web site. Projected revenues, including the new levy, come from a March 2023 financial report.)
As you can see, VIFR has enjoyed considerable revenue growth in recent years, climbing 166% from 2013 to 2023, most of it from property taxes. With the 2023 “levy lift” proposal on the ballot, the per-$1,000 valuation rate will jump from $1.12 back up to $1.50, a 34% increase, and will continue the current 6% per-year increase cap. As you can see, VIFR forecasts a significant, continued growth in the amount of money they will take in.
While spending money is the easiest thing to do when times are good, in the current economy, a lot of us are feeling a little less flush than we once were. As the vote on this proposed levy lift gets closer, The Loop is planning to join with some Island voices in providing further analysis, and exploring alternatives to just spending more money.
Transparency is a cornerstone of a public entity like our VIFR, and in the past the organization has been diligent in putting details of their meetings and planning documents on vifr.org. Unfortunately, VIFR stopped posting meeting minutes after 11/2022; the 2022 budget report is missing, and the 2023 budget “report” is a two-page fact sheet. We urge VIFR to resume its proactive transparency, so that any interested member of the public can view its operation at any level of detail with the convenience of a web site visit.
Placing barriers such as public records requests and FOIA demands to view documents? Which we, the community, paid for in the first place? How does this serve the interests of the voters who will shortly be asked to support further growth of the VIFR budget?