"Fire levy to drop, revenues climbingAn expansion of the Madison Avenue fire hall is planned."

"Even as its levy rate drops, the Bainbridge Island Fire Department expects increased tax revenues to cover expansion of the Madison Avenue fire hall. A fire-protection property tax levy of $1.20 per $1,000 assessed valuation is being proposed for 2001, down from $1.28 this year. The lower rate would be offset by an increase in local assessments and new home and commercial construction.The net effect for 2001 is that while the tax rate will go down, fire department tax revenues will go up by about $300,000, to $3.3 million.That would mean the owner of a $300,000 Bainbridge home would pay $360 for fire protection and emergency aid services next year.Fire commissioners will consider the rate during the board's regular meeting, 7 p.m. Nov. 8 in the Madison Avenue fire hall.Ken Guy, executive director of the department, said the revenue increase will cover higher operating costs, as well as a year-long design phase for expansion of the Madison Avenue fire hall, the department's headquarters.This is kind of where everybody congregates, Guy said. If you can make this a more attractive place, then the firefighters are ready to go when the call comes in.The department's cadre has increased by nearly 20 volunteers over the past two years, and several new paid positions have been added - all adding new demands for space, Guy said. The department's duty captains are now relegated to unheated office space in the building's attic, formerly a weight-training and storage area.District officials hope to expand the building to the rear of the grounds, reorganizing the ground floor to add office space and improve the firefighters' day room common area.Also among the planned improvements - fire sprinklers, which weren't required under the fire code when the building was constructed in the 1970s.If we're going to be a model for the community, we need to upgrade the building, Guy said.Total cost of the improvements is expected to be $1.2 million.The district has maintained a pay as you go approach, eschewing bond debt and paying for capital improvements out of current revenues. Issuing new debt, Guy said, would be ill-advised, as Initiative 722 and other measures cloud the department's funding picture.Passage of I-722, which went before voters this week, would wipe out the department's capital improvement budget, he said.I think it's a wise decision to try and maintain your financial flexibility, rather than getting locked into bonds, Guy said.The district's other big-ticket project, an aerial ladder truck, is still in the design phase. The truck will be custom built to the department's specifications, and may be ordered as early as next year. The fire department's levy-rate drop mirrors what local taxpayers will see from the city in 2001. The city tax levy is expected to drop to $1.65 per $1,000 valuation next year, down from $1.73. "

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