Fire Annexation

Frequently Asked Questions on  Annexation

of Woodland into

Clark County Fire & Rescue

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A Proposition concerning fire protection and emergency medical services in the City of Woodland and Clark County Fire & Rescue has been placed on the ballot for the August 4th Primary and Special Election.

On March 2, 2020 the Woodland City Council passed Ordinance No. 1457 seeking voter approval for annexation of the City of Woodland into the Clark County Fire & Rescue District. The CCFR Board of Fire Commissioners passed Resolution No. 200312-2 accepting the Woodland petition for annexation into CCFR. The annexation will ensure long-term fire protection and emergency services for both entities while leveraging economies of scale with regional partners. Woodland has been contracting with Clark County Fire & Rescue since 2013 to provide fire protection and emergency medical services in the city.  

If approved, fire and emergency services for the City of Woodland and Clark County Fire & Rescue would be combined to form Clark-Cowlitz Fire Protection District 15 and the current contract for service would end. Citizens residing within Woodland will be eligible to vote on District bonds, levies and commissioners, and to run for seats on the District’s board of commissioners. All properties of the combined district would be assessed the same levy rate (currently $1.48 per $1,000 of assessed value).   The City of Woodland property tax levy would decrease by an amount equal to the Fire District levy. The over-all combined tax rate and current level of service for Woodland and Clark County Fire & Rescue are anticipated to remain the same with annexation.

What’s on my ballot?

Voters who reside in the city and voters who reside in the fire district will be asked to allow the City of Woodland to annex into Clark County Fire & Rescue. The proposal will be on the Primary Election ballot on August 4th, 2020.

What does it mean to annex to Clark County Fire & Rescue?

The area within the Woodland city limits would become part of Clark County Fire & Rescue (“Fire District”). City of Woodland property owners would be within the fire district and pay for fire protection and emergency medical services (EMS) directly to the fire district through property tax assessment. The City of Woodland would lower the city’s property tax assessment by an equal amount. Because the new jurisdictional boundaries of the fire district would be in two counties, Washington law provides that the district’s legal name would change to Clark-Cowlitz Fire Protection District 15.  

Will this cost my family more?

No, annexation of Woodland into CCFR will not cost your family more. The fire levy rate would stay the same for property taxpayers in CCFR. Property owners in Woodland would begin paying the same fire levy rate for emergency services by having a portion of their property taxes directed to the Fire District instead of the City. The fire district levy rate in 2020 is $1.48/per thousand of assessed value. The City of Woodland will lower the city tax levy by an amount equal to the fire district levy. The intent of annexation is to be cost-neutral to all residents.

Doesn’t the city already provide fire and emergency medical service?

Woodland does not have its own fire department, and it is not part of a fire district. The city contracts with the Clark County Fire & Rescue District to provide services within the city. The current contract with CCFR has been in place since April 2013.

Clark County Fire & Rescue (which would be renamed Clark-Cowlitz Fire Protection District 15 with annexation) is a “Special Service District” authorized under RCW title 52 that is independent and not part of the County Government in either county.   As with other special service districts, the Fire District is overseen by an independent board of commissioners elected from within the District. 

Clark County Fire & Rescue covers 125 square miles of northwest Clark County, and includes the cities of Ridgefield and La Center, the Cowlitz Indian reservation, and the unincorporated neighborhoods of Meadow Glade, Dollars Corner, Duluth, Sara, Charter Oak, Lewisville, Rock Creek, Pine Grove, Highland, and Pioneer. CCFR was created in 2008 by the merger of Clark County Fire District 11 and Clark County Fire District 12. Previous mergers and annexations into the district have included Clark County Fire District 14, Clark County Fire District 2, the City of Ridgefield, and the City of La Center. 

How do Woodland residents benefit from a partnership with CCFR?

Prior to contracting with CCFR, Woodland only had one firefighter on duty per day, usually supplemented with a firefighter/intern and with volunteer firefighters when they were available. The career firefighters were Emergency Medical Technicians, but none were Paramedics. Simultaneous emergencies often meant that citizens had to wait for single Woodland crew to clear from one incident before responding to another. Since Woodland began contracting with CCFR in 2013, the citizens of Woodland became part of a larger organization for fire and emergency incidents. This means faster response times for emergencies, more crews available to immediately respond to simultaneous incidents, and more firefighters arriving on scene to structure fires to perform rescues and other critical tasks. Further, CCFR has assigned a Paramedic to be on duty each day at the Woodland fire station. In addition, costs for management, maintenance, and training are spread across multiple communities, allowing more money to be used to place firefighters in stations.

How do CCFR residents benefit from a partnership with Woodland?

The partnership with Woodland is beneficial to CCFR because it allows for a fast response into the far northwest corner of the Fire District from the Woodland station, as well as faster responses to car crashes on Interstate 5 in the CCFR response area. The revenue also provides an additional emergency response unit to be on duty and available to respond to other incidents in Clark County Fire & Rescue. As with most businesses, there are a number of economies of scale that are a benefit to a larger organization with shared resources.

How common is it for a city to annex to a fire district?

Annexation of cities into fire districts is very common throughout Washington. In Clark County, the City of Battle Ground annexed into Fire District 3 earlier this year. The cities of Ridgefield and La Center annexed into Clark County Fire & Rescue over two decades ago. In Cowlitz County the cities of Kelso, Kalama, and Castle Rock are all annexed into fire districts.  There have been over 20 fire department annexations and mergers in Washington since 2017.

How much does Woodland pay now for fire/EMS service, and what would it pay under annexation?

The contract with CCFR calls for $1.50/per thousand of assessed value to be paid each year by the City of Woodland from the General Fund. The amount paid by CCFR taxpayers varies slightly each year, but by State law it is never more than $1.50/per thousand. In 2020, CCFR residents paid $1.48/per thousand of assessed value. If annexed into the fire district, Woodland citizens would pay the same rate as all other CCFR residents.

Does the city plan to reduce taxes to offset this cost?

Yes, the Woodland City Council passed Resolution No. 718 resolving to bring forward an ordinance to reduce the current property tax rate in Woodland upon voter approval of annexation to CCFR. The current city property tax rate is $2.47/per thousand of assessed value. Upon annexation, City Council will lower the city rate by $1.48/per thousand, which is the current District rate. It is the intent of the Woodland City Council that annexation to CCFR is cost-neutral to the citizens of Woodland.

What happens if annexation is approved?

If annexation is approved, the city will no longer have to pay Clark County Fire & Rescue for services. Woodland would become part of the Fire District for fire and emergency services purposes. The city will reduce their property tax collections by an equivalent amount that citizens will be paying to the Fire District. Fire and emergency services will be provided to Woodland residents directly by the Fire District. Long term planning and service delivery to Woodland and the Fire District will be enhanced by annexation. Because the fire district would boundaries would be in two counties, the official name of the district would become Clark-Cowlitz Fire District 15.   As District residents, Woodland voters would be able to vote on all Fire District measures.

What happens if annexation is not approved?

The City of Woodland funds fire and emergency services through its general property tax levy. Emergency service contract costs will exceed its general fund revenue by 2024. The City will have to cut emergency service costs to maintain a balanced budget. If this happens, CCFR will be forced to reduce emergency service levels in the City, which means fewer personnel and apparatus to respond to emergencies in Woodland and the areas of CCFR adjacent to Woodland.

How is the Fire District governed?

Clark County Fire & Rescue is governed by a five-member Board of Fire Commissioners elected from within the jurisdictional boundaries of the district. Since Woodland is served by a contract, the citizens of Woodland cannot be Fire Commissioners for CCFR. Under annexation, CCFR’s jurisdictional boundaries will expand to include Woodland.  Any resident within these new jurisdictional boundaries, including Woodland, could run for these positions as they come up for election. 

What is the process for annexation?

The Woodland City Council and the CCFR Board of Fire Commissioners have both approved resolutions to place annexation before the voters on the August 4th Primary Election. The next step is for voters in both the City and the Fire District to consider the ballot measure for approval. If that happens, annexation will take effect on January 1, 2022.

What about the fire levy lid lift approved by CCFR residents in 2017?

Revenue from the fire levy lid lift has been used to provide additional staffing, apparatus, and facilities maintenance. The levy for CCFR is $1.48/per thousand of assessed value in 2020. The current Woodland Contract rate paid by the City is $1.50/per thousand of assessed value in the City.  Upon annexation, the citizens of Woodland would pay the same rate as everyone else in CCFR. For more information on the benefits of the fire levy lid lift passed by voters in 2017, call Fire Chief John Nohr at 360-887-4609.

What are the long-term benefits to the residents of the Fire District and the City under annexation?

CCFR is required to plan, monitor, evaluate, and respond to service levels in all the areas it serves. This is a requirement to maintain our community insurance rating. The point of annexation is that CCFR could plan long-term for the full service area. Long-term planning and financial stability is important to provide quality and predictable emergency services as our communities grow. It also is more cost effective for taxpayers to plan for capital needs such as facilities and apparatus, benefitting the Fire District and the City.

What happens to the Fire Impact Fee that developers in Woodland pay?

The City of Woodland collects a one-time Fire Impact Fee from new residential and commercial developments. This revenue must be used to fund capital projects related to fire protection in Woodland, and is currently used to pay for the new fire station that was constructed on Scott Avenue in 2018. Under annexation, these impact fees would continue to be used to pay off the fire station and future capital projects for improved fire service in Woodland. After annexation, property owners in the City would pay the same fire levy rate for service as those in the Fire District.

If you have questions about annexation, please call Fire Chief John Nohr at 360-887-4609 or Woodland City Administrator Pete Boyce at 360-225-8281.